La Femme de Gilles

Madeleine Bourdouxhe, trans. from the French by Faith Evans. Melville House, $15.99 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-61219-587-2
This 1937 novel, a portrait of a Belgian housewife driven to desperation, established Bourdouxhe as an early, essential feminist author. The “giddy” Elisa whiles away her days eager for her factory worker husband, Gilles, to return home—until the evening when her younger sister, Victorine, drops by and Gilles is filled with “spontaneous desire” that leaves him “dumbfounded, unable to move.” They begin an affair, and once Elisa finds out, her once-happy “monotonous existence” lurches suddenly onto “a course of misery.” But Victorine is a “fickle” lover, and when Gilles finally tells Elisa of his angst about their relationship, Elisa’s love leads her not to scorn him, but rather to assume the “unusual position of confidante.” Even as Gilles rages, “If I caught her with one of those other guys I might kill her,” Elisa counsels, “You can’t truly love her if you say a thing like that.” As Gilles’s jealousy drives him to violence, Elisa remains “inhibited by this overwhelming love of hers,” and as she careens towards tragedy, what emerges is a heartrending study of the compromises a woman is willing to make to preserve her marriage. In Bourdouxhe’s hands, love is contorted from a source of stability into a force that can leave a woman lying in bed and weeping “little strangled tears, a handkerchief over her mouth so as not to wake Gilles.” (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 12/05/2016
Release date: 11/01/2016
Paperback - 138 pages - 978-0-8101-1197-4
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-907970-54-2
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