Like the Belgian writer's critically lauded novels Marie and La Femme de Gilles, these stories—which first appeared in English in 1989—tunnel into the conflicted hearts of their female characters in fluid, beautiful prose.
Translated and beautifully introduced by Faith Evans, the stories powerfully elicit the complexities of the period through which the writer lived: Europe, post Nazi Occupation ... This really is a stunning collection. The bleakness of the historical context surrounding the stories feels recognisable yet altogether new under this writer’s gaze, drawn with a delicate, poignant subtlety and contrasted with a rich, dynamic evocation of the female experience. There is no compromise on Bourdouxhe’s focus on the female perspective; she is steadfast in her interest in women’s psychology, their identity, their subconscious, and how these ideas can be navigated through backdrops as mundane as domesticity or as dangerous as war ... For me, Bourdouxhe seems to occupy a new territory which at once sits firmly in its historical context, but seems to traverse to other worlds too; she has the observational expertise and tightness in structure of Katherine Mansfield, a touch of Angela Carter’s wildness, and the realism in her characterisation and dialogue reminded me of Daphne Du Maurier’s later work ... Philosophical questions regarding desire, death and depression pulse through the narrative with such strength, yet are presented with a graceful clarity and simplicity. This is quality prose balanced with deep, dark characterization. The balance between the restrictions these women face, the violence they face, their relationships with the men around them, and their wild, driving, fantastical inner worlds is compellingly drawn. The same can be said of the way in which she draws landscapes; landscapes become all things under her pen—they are both tender and bleak, potent and static, oppressive and liberating ... Bourdouxhe’s writing is absolutely one of a kind. Engaging with it is a moving, powerful and transformative reading experience.
Like miniature versions of her novels, these captivating tales explore the singular minds of ordinary women through beguiling prose that manages to be fluid and lucid but also swirling with complex currents. The title story showcases Bourdouxhe’s talent for disorientating her reader with an unexpected act and an unpredictable outcome ... Translator Faith Evans excels ... The black sheep in the collection is 'René,' a nasty little tale in which an impulsive kiss from the male protagonist leads to a violent assault. Bourdouxhe achieves better results when her women are center stage. Whether they are lonely souls, bruised victims or resilient survivors, we champion them and come to know them inside out.
... [a] fine collection ... Bourdouxhe’s prose is crisp, precise, and always understated. She’s a marvelous writer with an entirely unique vision of the world. A gorgeous collection from a writer too often overlooked.