Free Day

Inès Cagnati, trans. from the French by Liesl Schillinger. New York Review Books, $14.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-68137-358-4
A teenage girl struggles with loyalty to a family that mistreats her in Cagnati’s skillful, heartrending novel, her English-language debut. Intelligent, willful, and fierce, 14-year-old Galla grows up on an unprofitable farm in southwest France, where her parents contend with “land filled with white stones, all these daughters and never any money for anything.” Her father is often violent, and her loving, depressive mother is resentful when Galla becomes a boarding student at a Catholic high school, where she’s ashamed of her hand-me-down clothes and disgusted by the other students and “idiotic” teachers. Over the course of one freezing weekend, as Galla takes a lonely and arduous bicycle journey to visit her mother, she reflects on the tragedies of her childhood and her dreams of earning enough to buy her family “earth far away from these pallid hills and wild waters,” unaware that her world is about to change irrevocably. Galla’s interior monologue unspools as she cycles, gradually revealing the daily miseries and notable occurrences of her life. Like Holden Caulfield, she’s critical of adult hypocrisies, resenting “godmothers [who] never give us anything,” but alive to the possibilities of the natural world. Readers will be invested in this young woman’s demand for dignity: “I wanted, all of a sudden, to rise up all alone against the world and demand at last: What had I done, that nobody wanted me?” (Nov.)
Reviewed on : 09/10/2019
Release date: 08/27/2019
Genre: Fiction
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