*Shortlisted for the Scott Moncrieff Prize 2022*
A fierce and poetic debut on surviving the wilderness of family life
At home there are four bedrooms: one for her, one for her little brother Sam, one for her parents, and one for the carcasses. Her father is a big-game hunter, a powerful predator, and her mother is submissive to her violent husband’s demands. The young narrator spends the days with Sam, playing in the shells of cars dumped for scrap and listening out for the melody of the ice-cream truck, until a brutal accident shatters their world. The uncompromising pen of Adeline Dieudonné wields flashes of brilliance as she brings her characters to life in a world that is both dark and sensual. This breathtaking debut is a sharp and funny coming-of-age tale in which reality and fantasy collide.
Adeline Dieudonné was born in 1982 and lives in Brussels. A playwright and short-story writer, her first novella, Amarula, was awarded… Read more
Book Club Questions
- The book stages a host of colorful characters. Is there any one you found most interesting, and why?
- Is there a character you think you may have an unusual opinion of—for instance, one you thought was pure at heart, whereas they may have seemed twisted and selfish at a first glance, or the other way round?
- Is the protagonist delusional, or is she fundamentally correct in her descriptions of her environment?
- What did you think of the ending? Was it what you had hoped would happen?
- What does the final event mean for the mother?
- Is there a parallel with what it means for the protagonist?
- The incident with the ice-cream truck had a lasting influence on the protagonist’s family; i.e. could it be seen as a catalyst for the family’s eventual happiness?
- Taking this idea a step further, would anything have ended up being drastically differently in their family, if a time-traveler had come back and prevented the whipped-cream-related explosion?
- What did you think of the text left on the gun in the climactic final scene? Was it only a surprising twist, or did it retrospectively give you a better understanding of other events in the novel?
- Does the novel as a whole, including the ending, leave you with a rather bleak or optimistic view of the world, or perhaps neither?
- Is it fair to conclude that the father was the ultimate source of the downward spiral in the family, and that now things will be better?
- What does the father represent, perhaps seen in conjunction with his hunter friends? Can they be related to the grotesque vision of life often seen in the protagonist’s thoughts?
- Is there an important distinction between the professor and the father? If so, what is it? Is the professor a healthier version of the father, or are they in no way comparable?
- Did you in any way or at any moment side with the father?
- Were the social dynamics in the Demo relatable for you? Was there anything universally suburban about the place, perhaps?
- Will you be looking forward to Adeline Dieudonné’s second novel?
‘Dieudonné’s startling debut tackles dark themes with grace, wit, and sincerity. A deeply disturbing, furiously tender, and darkly comedic debut.’ —Kirkus Reviews
‘Transforming the traditional coming-of-age novel, Adeline Dieudonné’s successful first work is a captivating, unnerving take on emancipation and the hope of escaping violence.’ —France-Amérique
‘While this is a story about vulnerability and the victims of domestic abuse, it is also a story of courage. Dieudonné’s debut novel, translated terrifically by Roland Glasser is, at once, fearsome and with heart.’ —Brigid O’Dea, Irish Times
‘Roland Glasser’s translation captures brilliantly the simultaneous passion, humour, and detachment of the writing in a tour de force of readability.’ —Jury, Scott Moncrieff Prize 2022, Society of Authors
‘A magnificent heroine of freedom and intelligence’ —BRUNO CORTY, Le Figaro
‘A sense of rhythm, hard-hitting words, and vitriolic humor’ —COLINE SERREAU, director of Chaos
‘Bitter, raw and fast-paced: a tale that’s filled with a hunger for life’ —ALAIN LORFÉVRE, La Libre Belgique
‘This story is inevitably touching and disturbing, since it meticulously displays the mechanisms of physical and moral domestic violence through a cruel, perverse and violent father. The author’s style is slick, poetic, metaphoric, beautiful and brutal at once, much like life can be, too.’ —Light and Smell Blog
Why You Should Read This Book
“Adolescence fascinates me: it’s a time of great transformations, of burning emotions. The parents in my novel don’t assume their role in the slightest, and so this child and her brother are left to their own devices. I was interested to see how their relationship with death would change when they witness a tragic accident up close. Suddenly they are forced to confront our condition as living beings who can die, who can suffer, who can be hurt. My heroine has a sense of responsibility that is truly exceptional.”
ADELINE DIEUDONNÉ, the author
“It all began with a siphon, for whipped cream, pressurized. Or should that be a flask? My mind was whirring before I’d even translated a word. Then I saw two of them, in the window of one of those stores that sells everything: “Cream Whipper” said the box, above a picture of something that was very definitely a siphon. Real Life is all about the seemingly ordinary, the seemingly familiar, that really isn’t. My challenge as a translator was to maintain this edginess to the seemingly matter-of-fact prose.”
ROLAND GLASSER, the translator
“Esther Gerritsen stands out as one of the most original voices in Dutch literature. Her characters are driven by irrational and instinctive forces, which find their sources in grief, anger, and despair. Her writing is astute, funny, daring, and full of life; and discomfits the reader in a way only great literature is able.”
JUDITH UYTERLINDE, the publisher