In this English-language debut by French-Algerian author Samira Sedira, the Guillot family lives in the remote—and mostly white—village of Carmac when the wealthy Black Langlois family moves into town. When both families begin experiencing financial troubles, the underlying class and racial tensions of their relationship come to a breaking point, and the unthinkable happens.
... a fascinating amalgam of gruesome headlines...and Sedira's personal experience ... The Algerian-born French novelist, playwright and actor Sedira intertwines these disparate events to create a jarring narrative of privilege and power ... Sedira plots a tight, terse novel, made particularly intriguing with Anna as cipher ... her searing fiction further exposes the reality of monstrous inhumanity.
Samira Sedira believes that a writer’s role is not to judge or take sides, but to 'attempt to get closer to the shadows' ... her taut novel, deftly translated by Lara Vergnaud, does precisely that ... Although the Guillots swiftly befriend the Langlois family, it’s a troubled relationship from the outset. When Anna agrees to work as their cleaner, Sedira brilliantly conveys the damage inflicted by her subservient role ... Sedira lays bare the perils of a callous society dominated by money and status, and the insidious racism that drives an ordinary man to murder. There are no monsters, she claims, 'only humans.'
From the very first pages, you feel how dreadful life is in Carmac, a tiny mountain village ... The style has a great flow, very well conveyed in translation, as the narrator addresses her husband while reminiscing ... The author, who focuses on class relations, did a fantastic job at capturing the French social background, and at conveying the local color of life in a small village. The fourth chapter focusing on Abbott and Costello, the two old pillars of the cafe, is a gem, so spot on. It will sound very familiar to anyone living in a tiny place in France ... Ultimately, Sedira is offering a study on human nature.