THE GOVERNESSES publication date: March 2019
Translated by Mark Hutchinson
BEST BOOKS 2018, Publishers' Weekly
The sensational English debut of a major French writer — written with the elegance of old French fables, the dark sensuality of Djuna Barnes and the subtle comedy of Robert Walser, this warped erotic fairy tale of a novella introduces UK readers to the marvellous Anne Serre.
In a large country house, shut off from the world within a gated garden, three young women responsible for the education of a group of little boys are hanging paper lanterns for a party. Their desires, however, lie elsewhere... Meet The Governesses: wild or drifting about in a sated, melancholy calm; spied upon by Monsieur Austeur, fascinated by the ever more mysterious unfolding of events, like the charms and spells of a midsummer night's dream…
'Prim and racy, seriously weird and seriously excellent. A John Waters sex farce told with the tact and formality of a classic French fairy tale. There’s an energy here that recalls The Virgin Suicides.'
— The New York Times
‘Inès, Laura and Éléonor are not exactly Jane Eyre types…. This could be the setup for a neo-pagan farce about the battle between Eros and civilization, but as Serre delves into the three women’s existence, the novel taps into deeper, quieter waters: the Keatsian twinning of joy and melancholy… Serre’s wistful ode to pleasure is as enchanting as its three nymph-like protagonists.’
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
‘Brutal and effervescent, The Governesses is a systems novel, in the guise of a postmodern fairy tale, a twisted take on the battle of the sexes, a Dionysian mystery in sheep’s clothing. This haunting and compulsive read, imbued with an uncanny intensity, in an unforgettable introduction to Anne Serre’s work.’
— Alexandra Kleeman, author of Intimations: Stories
'A sensualist, surrealist romp.'
— Kirkus Reviews
‘The story, classical in appearance, soon jolts us out of our sleepy way.’
— Le Monde
‘A delightful sabbath.’