cover image A Woman's Story

A Woman's Story

Annie Ernaux. Four Walls Eight Windows, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-941423-51-9

For this Prix Renaudot-winning author, childhood was not just a time of life but a cottage industry. A trilogy of books intersect at her youth: the story of Ernaux's father, told in La Place ; her semi-autobiographical first novel, Cleaned Out ; and A Woman's Story . In this work, the woman of the title is the author's mother and the story is a brief, aching requiem for an intense but qualified relationship. Ernaux's mother (she is never named), who was born in a small town in Normandy where she saw the fruition of the ``only ambition which lay within her reach: running a grocery business,'' finally succumbs to Alzheimer's disease. This life's very commonness presents difficulties for her daughter who is both ashamed of her mother and aware of the immense difficulties the woman surmounted to give her daughter something better. ``It was only when my mother . . . became history that I started to feel less alone and out of place in a world ruled by words and ideas, the world where she had wanted me to live.'' (May)