The Book of Mother

Fugitive parce que reine

Violaine Huisman

250 pages January 2018 French and English copies available Literary Fiction

“Violaine Huisman summons her late mother’s voice in order to speak with and through and for her. The result is a charged portrait of a vibrant and destructive woman as imagined by the daughter who believed it was her job to save her. The prose has the unmistakable urgency and authority of love, producing an homage without idealization, an elegy without false consolation. The Book of Mother is at once an act of radical identification and a way of letting go.”

—Ben Lerner

Violaine Huisman has painted an indelible portrait of a brilliant, beautiful, mad and maddening woman, expressing the joy of holding her mercurial attention and also the terrible cost of that intimacy. This is an exquisite evocation of the passionate, reciprocal love that can illuminate its objects, or destroy them, or both. No one who reads this captivating book will ever forget Maman.
—Andrew Solomon

A gorgeous, critically acclaimed debut novel about a young woman coming of age with a dazzling yet damaged mother who lived and loved in extremes.


A prizewinning tour de force when it was published in France, Violaine Huisman’s remarkable debut novel is about a daughter’s inextinguishable love for her magnetic, mercurial mother. Beautiful and charismatic, Catherine, or “Maman,” smokes too much, drives too fast, laughs too hard, and loves too extravagantly. During a joyful and chaotic childhood in Paris, her daughter Violaine wouldn’t have it any other way.

When Maman is hospitalized after a third divorce and a breakdown, everything changes. Violaine and her sister long for their mother’s return, yet once she’s back, Maman’s violent mood swings and flagrant disregard for personal boundaries turn their home into an emotional minefield. As the story of Catherine’s own traumatic childhood and adolescence unfolds, an indelible portrait emerges of a mother as irresistible as she is impossible, as triumphant as she is transgressive.

With its fierce language, streak of dark humor and stunning emotional courage, The Book of Mother is an exquisitely wrought story of a mother’s dizzying heights and devastating lows, and a daughter who must hold her memories close in order to let go, and live.


“In lucid, unflinching—and here beautifully translated—prose, this stunning debut novel mines the singular flaws and graces of the mother-daughter connection. An ode to its titular parent, an “impossible” yet “irreplaceable” woman in full, The Book of Mother is also an unforgettable meditation on the searing pain of loss and the enduring power of love.”
—Caroline Weber, author of Proust’s Duchess and Queen of Fashion

“A marvellous and unsettling début.” —The New Yorker

“Violaine Huisman unfurls memories, facts and family myths…it’s poignant, terribly alive…the grit Huisman has in retelling her story, both as a young girl and as a writer, is as beautiful as it is brave…dignified and devastating, the book is a superb monument to a woman who spent her whole life in flight.” — Le Monde

“The most stunning book of this spring.” — France 2

“A sparkling debut. Any sadness in the telling is countered by the panache and surprise of the writing infused in these pages. Love wins out in a life of struggle–the struggle of a monarch without a kingdom.” — Elle

“A poignant autobiographical first novel…a strikingly beautiful work.”— RTL

“A magnificent ode. Her prose abounds with literary force.” — Le Point

“A coup de coeur…A magnificent portrait.” — France Inter

“Hypnotic and searching.” — La Vie

“An intelligent, rich debut.” — Liberation

“An emphatically gripping debut.” — Livres Hebdo