cover image The Confidant

The Confidant

Helene Gremillon, trans. from the French by Alison Anderson. Penguin, $15 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-14-312156-5

Set in Paris in 1975, Gremillon’s absorbing debut begins when Camille Werner receives a long, unsigned, handwritten letter among the condolence notes after her mother’s death. Already in a state of shock, both from the unexpected death and from breaking up with her boyfriend after his casual mention of not wanting children when Camille told him she was pregnant, Camille becomes fascinated with the correspondent’s tale of a budding romance between two teenage friends, Annie and Louis, in a small town on the cusp of WWII. Camille becomes convinced that it is this Louis who wrote to her, though she assumes her receipt of the missives is a mistake. In subsequent letters (which are differentiated from Camille’s narrative by the use of fonts), Louis spins his tale of a love that became doomed when Annie was befriended by a young, wealthy, and unhappy Parisian couple. As a book editor, Camille wonders if Louis (who never signs the letters) is trying to wangle a publishing contract. But when he reveals that Annie has a daughter born around the time of Camille’s own birth, Camille becomes obsessed with locating Louis and getting the whole story behind his letters. Finely written, unabashedly romantic, and full of twists, this novel will grip readers until the end. Agent: Rebecca Byers, Plon-Perrin Presses de la Renaissance. (Nov.)