cover image Vengeance Is Mine

Vengeance Is Mine

Marie Ndiaye, trans. from the French by Jordan Stump. Knopf, $28 (240p) ISBN 978-0-593-53424-3

Ndiaye’s magnetic and intense latest (after That Time of Year) follows a French lawyer’s downward spiral when she takes on a sensationalized murder case. Maître Susane, 42, is an undistinguished lawyer in Bordeaux whose life is upended when Gilles Principaux asks her to defend his wife, Marlyne, for the murder of their three children. Further complicating matters for Maître Susane is her housekeeper, Sharon, an undocumented Mauritian living in France with her husband and children: Maître Susane feels uncomfortable being her employer and so spares her such tasks as cleaning the toilet, and yet Sharon seems to dislike her, even, on one occasion, going as far as pretending not to see Maître Susane in a supermarket. Ndiaye’s incendiary premise is really a jumping-off point to track her protagonist’s roiling inner world: at one point, Maître Susane refuses to look at herself in the mirror, certain that “she wasn’t feeling strong enough to choose between the rational woman and the woman who wasn’t, but often understood things more rightly.” The author is equally adept at both small-scale psychological character insight and virtuosic structural shifts—the highlight of the novel is a harrowing, unforgettable 10-page monologue that Marlyne delivers from behind bars. Ndiaye turns in another ferocious tale. (Oct.)