It’s a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Vanda by Marion Brunet, translated by Katherine Gregor.
‘Vanda follows on from the success of last year’s The Summer of Reckoning: winner of the prestigious French mystery prize Grand Prix de Littérature policière, shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger in the UK, The Times Book of the Month.’
About the Author
Marion Brunet, born in 1976, is a well-known Young Adult and Literary Fiction author in France. Her YA novels have received over 30 prizes, including the 2017 UNICEF Prize for Youth Literature. Marion has previously worked as a special needs educator and now writes her fiction in Marseilles.
Vanda follows on from the success of Summer of Reckoning and is her second work to be translated into English. Follow Marion Brunet on Goodreads
About the Translator
Katherine Gregor lives in London and has recently translated works by Alexander Pushkin from the Russian and plays by Carlo Goldoni and Luigi Pirandello from the Italian. Follow translator Katherine Gregor @ScribeDoll on Twitter
About the book
Set in Marseilles, this is the story of Vanda, a beautiful woman in her thirties, arms covered in tats, skin so dark that some take her for a North African. Devoted to her six-year-old son Noé, they live in a derelict shed by the beach. She had wanted to be an artist; she is now a cleaner in a psychiatric hospital. But Vanda is happy living alone with her boy. “The two of them against the world”, as she says.
Everything changes when Simon, the father of her son, surfaces in Marseilles. He had left Vanda seven years earlier, not knowing that she was pregnant. When Simon demands custody of his son, Vanda’s suppressed rage threatens to explode. The tension becomes unbearable, both parents fully capable of extreme violence.
I know for many this story equates to an image of motherhood, the lioness who will protect her offspring no matter the consequences. She will do anything to keep the outside world from taking him and interfering. That relationship takes precedence above everything and anyone else, including that of the other parent – in this case the father who doesn’t become aware of his son until six years after Vanda gave birth to him.
I didn’t take any of that away from this story. What stands out for me is the pure narcissism, the selfishness, and the complete and utter lack of accountability for choices and actions. Vanda lives life on the seat of her pants. Instant gratification is her mantra – people, parties, substance abuse and of course sexual gratification.
Does that mean Vanda isn’t a victim of a patriarchal society, of abuse or assault? Does it mean she isn’t a strong woman who is willing to stand up for what is right and protect the weaker? No, but it also doesn’t negate the fact she isn’t a perfect example of motherhood. This story is a perfect example of neglect, of a bond created on the lack of equality between a child who has no other source of basic needs than his mother, and a mother to whom he is a second thought and an obstacle.
So, no this wasn’t an example of a paragon of virtuous motherhood and a strong woman protecting the bond between mother and child. It is one of a person who is incapable of making the right choices for her son, because her needs and sense of superiority and possession will always come first. To the detriment of herself, those around her, and of course her child.
Brunet has a knack for writing a story that can create a division and make us aware of the fact that depending on our own frame of references the reader will digest, experience and ultimately come to completely different views on the material they have read. It’s also that noirish quality of her work, which captivates whilst stirring the emotions, that has readers coming back for more. The translator manages to capture the essence perfectly.
Buy Vanda at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher : Bitter Lemon Press, pub date 22 April 2022. Buy at Amazon com. Buy via Bitter Lemon Press.