Updated on August 5, 2015
37. ‘The Confidant by Hélène Grémillon
I have to say, I judged this book by its cover, and I thought it would be a fairly average romance story that I probably wouldn’t enjoy. However, I was pleasantly surprised: this isn’t a romance – more like a thriller – and there was a lot more atmosphere and intrigue than I expected.
The story is told in a series of letters sent to a woman called Camille, in the wake of her mother’s death. At first she thinks they have been sent to her by mistake, but as the mysterious sender narrates his story, she realises that she (and her deceased mother) might be more intimately involved than she first thought.
I did have an issue with this aspect of the story. I’m not really a fan of the ‘so-and-so goes in search of the family secret’ genre per se, but at least there is some action involved on the part of the protagonist. Here Camille has the family secret delivered into her hands, without doing much herself, beyond making a half-hearted attempt to track down the man who is sending her the letters. She fails.
Still, the story itself is a good one. Set during the years leading up to and during the Second World War, the characters find themselves more embroiled in the world political situation, as their own lives become increasingly fraught and desperate. There’s the young girl Annie, who is befriended by the childless Madame M. Annie agrees to bear a child for Madame M, but what starts as a mere transaction with M’s husband turns into a secret affair. When M discovers their betrayal she keeps quiet, and plots terrible revenge upon her husband and Annie. The secret sender of the letters is Annie’s close friend, who watches the story unfold.
I did guess the ‘big reveal’ at the end (the connection between the story and Camille), but there was another element (what happens to Annie) that I didn’t see coming, and which left me truly shocked. In places I felt the writing was rushed, like Grémillon just wanted to hurry on with the story, and consequently ended up leaving some holes in the plot. However, this is for the most part a solid, intriguing story, perfect if you’re looking for a quick, enjoyable read.
“[Annie was] too young for me to confide in, too young to respond with advice. As she could not fulfil the traditional role of a confidant, she had no other choice than to allow herself to be profoundly affected by my despair.”
This book was sent to me by Book Oxygen, for being part of their Inner Circle, and I read it in under two days!
If you enjoyed my review, why not buy the book and let me know what you think?