Last year, Marion Brunet released the zeitgeist-smashing novel The Summer of Reckoning. Her first novel translated into English had already earned her the prestigious French mystery prize Grand Prix de Littérature policière and went on to gain an amazing reaction with the UK public as well. This month we’ve chosen the much-anticipated follow up novel Vanda for our April Book of the Month.
The titular Vanda is a beauty; tanned, tattooed and dangerous. But the one who has her heart is her beloved six-year-old son Noé who she would give the world for if she was asked. She’s already given up her dreams. Instead of an artist, Vanda is a faceless cleaner in a psychiatric hospital. Instead of a cosy two-bed, she and her son live in a derelict flat by the coast. But this life she gave everything for is disturbed when trouble arrives. Suddenly Simon, Noé’s father who deserted a pregnant Vanda seven years prior, is back on the scene and demanding custody of “his boy”. He has the money and the means to care for Noé in a way that she won’t ever be able to. She had told Noé it was “the two of them against the world” but with the threat his father poses, her maternal desperation is curdling in to something more vicious. Neither parent will back down and both of them are capable of anything.
With that kind of plot and the ever-excellent prose of Brunet, this one is likely to be a favourite read for anyone who picks it up. And as it explores the beautiful and complex relationship people have to love and pride, we are reminded that this drama surrounds a young boy. The dark, needy and unrelenting side of the human race is splayed out for the reader’s pleasure, while reminding us the casualties of their actions are their own and that of their shared son.
Praise for Vanda:
“Beautifully etched portrait of a woman who knows only extreme love. Wild, ferocious, she smells her son without biting him, but would suffocate him in her arms rather than see him leave her.” – Figaro
Vanda by Marion Brunet is out now from Bitter Lemon Press
(9781913394653, p/b, £8.99)