In a wonderfully riveting story of friendship, motherhood, obsession and secrets, The Confidant marks the arrival of French writer Helene Gremillon.
In 1975, as the story opens, Camille Werner is dealing with the recent, unexpected, death of her mother. Letters of condolence pour in but Camille does not wish to read them; but one which is thicker than the rest piques her interest. It details the childhood love of a boy called Louis for a local girl, Annie, set against the murmurings of the Second World War. Not knowing either of these people, Camille believes that the missive has mistakenly reached her, but every Tuesday more letters arrive and continue the story that Louis has begun.
They tell the story of Annie’s life; her friendship with the wealthy Madame M. and her naive, yet honourable, decision to have a child for her and how this decision forever changes their lives. Camille suspects that the letters are an attempt by an author to win her over as a publisher, but soon Camille finds herself caught at the very heart of the story she is reading. With each letter more details fit into place, and as Louis recounts the story from the perspectives of Annie and finally Madame M., we see the truth emerging. But even when we think we have the final story, Gremillon gives us an ending that reengages with the very fabric of the novel and makes us rethink the conclusion. This is an absolutely brilliant debut that builds in momentum, gradually unravelling the mysteries and inconsistencies of the plot to hold the reader in suspense to the final page.