Three Strong Women

Marie NDiaye’s astounding Goncourt-winning Three Strong Women (translated by John Fletcher) is being published by in America by Alfred A. Knopf, and this Sunday it has been reviewed in the New York Time Book Review. It was quite an in-depth review, but here are a few choice snippets:

Publishers in the United States [are introducing] American readers to a new generation of hugely gifted French writers who are reworking the boundaries of fiction, memoir and history . . . Among the recent crop of writers just reaching the top of their game, Marie NDiaye, born in 1967 and now living in Berlin, is pre-eminent.


A writer of the highest caliber . . . NDiaye is a hypnotic storyteller with an unflinching understanding of the rock-bottom reality of most people’s lives. This clear sightedness – combined with her subtle narrative sleights of hand and her willingness to broach essential subjects

like the fate of would-be migrants to the rich North – gives her fiction a rare integrity that shines through the sinuous prose . . . NDiaye manages nonetheless to convey a redemptive realism about how the world works, and what makes people tick . . . Three Strong Women is the poised creation of a novelist unafraid to explore the extremes of human suffering.

And now is probably a sensible time to mention that Three Strong Women was also recently review in the Guardian by Maya Jaggi, who was similarly impressed:

A tenuously linked tripartite novel that is more than the sum of its parts is a hard act to pull off. Marie NDiaye, one of France’s most exciting prose stylists and playwrights, succeeds with elegance, grit and some painful comedy in Three Strong Women, which won the Prix Goncourt in 2009. Moving mainly between France and Senegal, this novel explores survival, inheritance and the feared repetition of history – within families, as between peoples. Its three heroines have an unassailable sense of their own self-worth, while their psychological battles have an almost mythic resonance.


It can take a while to acclimatise to NDiaye’s style, which incorporates a thread of hallucinatory symbolism about flowers and flight. John Fletcher’s translation rightly preserves long sentences that can, at times, verge on awkwardness. But the prose compels with its astonishing range and precision.

The full review can be found here.

Three Strong Women is available in Hardback . . .



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