Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies meets Rachel Cusk’s The Lucky Ones in this astounding debut novel about a woman on the verge of infidelity.
Tessa is a thirty-seven-year-old real estate agent living in Montreal. She adores her husband and three young sons, but she’s deeply unhappy and questioning the set of choices that have led to her present life.
After a surprising run-in with Francis, her ex-boyfriend and first love, Tessa arranges to see him. During the three days before their meeting, she goes about her daily life — there’s swimming lessons, science projects, and dirty dishes. As the day of her meeting with Francis draws closer she has to decide if she is willing to disrupt her stable, loving family life for an uncertain future with him.
With startling clarity and emotional force, Fanny Britt gives us a complex portrait of a woman and a marriage from the inside out.
About the authors
Fanny Britt is a playwright, novelist and translator. Her play Bienveillance won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama (French). Her first novel, Les maisons, was short-listed for the France-Québec prize and the Prix littéraire des collégiens. She has also translated and adapted some thirty plays and novels.
Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault first collaborated on the graphic novel Jane, the Fox and Me, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Children’s Illustration (French) and the Joe Shuster Awards for Best Writer and Best Artist. It was also named a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book.
Susan Ouriou is an award-winning literary translator who has translated the fiction of Quebec, Latin-American, French and Spanish authors. She won Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award for Translation in 2009 for Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras, after first being shortlisted for The Road to Chlifa by Michèle Marineau and then for Necessary Betrayals by Guillaume Vigneault. The Road to Chlifa was also awarded an honour list placing by IBBY (International Board of Books for Youth) as were Naomi and Mrs. Lumbago by Gilles Tibo, This Side of the Sky by Marie-Francine Hébert and Pieces of Me. Necessary Betrayals was also voted one of the 100 best books of 2002 by the Globe and Mail. Another translation, The Thirteenth Summer by José Luis Olaizola, was runner-up for the John Glassco Translation Prize. She has worked as the director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre and as faculty for the Banff Centre's Aboriginal Emerging Writers residency. She is the editor of the 2010 anthology Beyond Words – Translating the World.
Christelle Morelli is a French-English literary translator and teacher in the Francophone school system. She has translated the anthology Languages of Our Land: Indigenous Poems and Stories from Quebec and the children’s book Blanche Hates the Night. She has also co-translated 15 fiction, non-fiction and children’s books with Susan Ouriou. Her French to English co-translations other than Winter Child are: Against God, Sand Bar, Jane, the Fox and Me, Millions for a Song, Once Upon a Rainy Day, Stolen Sisters, Louis Undercover and Hunting Houses. Her English to French co-translation titles are: La toute dernière première fois, Chin Chiang et la danse du dragon, Lune jaune, à bientôt, Le chandail d’Amos, Une musique du ciel, Leçons de la Mère-Terre and Un saumon pour Simon. Her co-translation with Susan Ouriou, Stolen Sisters, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Translation in 2015.
Excerpt: Hunting Houses (by (author) Fanny Britt; translated by Susan Ouriou & Christelle Morelli)
Évelyne is crying in earnest now. I take her hand. I say yes, her house is fabulous. I myself would buy it if I could. It will make some family very happy just as hers was for several years.
My client nods, I know she finds the idea comforting — all my clients do. There must be some solace in thinking your house will go on living apart from you, like an extension, a promise renewed no matter the hardships or failures, bestowing sudden meaning on sorrow. Personally, it's all a mystery to me since I have no desire to see others blossom where I once withered away — but then I'm not a very nice person.
Évelyne shows me the rest of her house: two children's bedrooms. In the first room, a cream-coloured quilt in a delicate pattern of pink and pale-green buttercups and peonies. A number of lively drawings on the walls, all signed SOLENE. In the second bedroom, blue and green stripes, dinosaur figurines, wood letters painted red hanging on the door: MATTEO. Évelyne was astute enough to keep the walls white. It won't be as difficult for potential buyers to project their own lives onto them — nothing is less helpful than a pink bedroom covered in princess decals for the morale of a mother with two sons who longs for the daughter she never had and hopes to find in her new abode the secret formula that will at last guarantee her the perfect family she's dreamt of since childhood. I respond to the client with all the solicitude I can muster, Who knows, this house could be a lucky charm, but when, guilt-ridden at having downplayed the worth of the children she does have, she grabs hold of my arm, My boys are wonderful, I love them so much, after all, what counts is that they're healthy, no? Do you have children? and I answer, Yes, three boys, for the space of a second, she's caught between wanting to be me and relief that she isn't. Her coral lips give the faintest, saddest smile ever smiled and she murmurs: Three boys. That's quite something, isn't it.
Britt is especially strong at capturing the hyper-vulnerability a mother can feel on behalf of her children . . . In capturing and sustaining that intense emotional pitch, the novel is spiritual kin to Ann-Marie MacDonald’s Adult Onset and Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin . . . Translators Susan Ouriou and Christelle Morelli do an exemplary job of rendering Britt’s prose crisply and idiomatically.
Britt’s novel is an unflinching reminder that heartbreak doesn’t discriminate… . Britt reveals, moment by moment, the lifetime of a woman caught between the expectations of motherhood and personal fulfillment.