Published on 2 April 2019, paperback, 180x120, 108 pages, £10.00 ISBN 978-0-9930093-9-6

Published on 2 April 2019, paperback, 180x120, 108 pages, £10.00
ISBN 978-0-9930093-9-6


Anne Serre

Translated by Mark Hutchinson


Published 2 April 2019
BEST BOOKS in Fiction 2018, Publishers Weekly (USA)
Longlisted for Best Translated Book Awards 2019

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…

Latest Must Reads’, Catherine Clifford, France 24, 6 February 2019


‘The story, classical in appearance, soon jolts us out of our sleepy way.’ — Le Monde

‘A delightful sabbath.’ — Libération

‘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)

‘In The Governesses, Eléonore and Laura capture a male passerby (…) Albeit with more warmth, the scene recalls the chilling, somewhat theatrical erotic descriptions of Pierre Klossowski, to mention only one contemporary representative of the kind of French writing going back to the Marquis de Sade and, more generally, the eighteenth-century psychological novel.’ – John Taylor, TLS

‘A cruel and exhilarating book. Anne Serre’s style is perfectly controlled. Colorful, by turns elegant and violent, it provokes that enchantment borne out of an unbridled imagination.’ – Paula Jacques, Marie-Claire

‘The allegorical fable by its nature lends itself to visually striking imagery like no other literary form. This is exactly what Serre places before her readers - a visual feast, a cabinet of curiosities, a long gallery filled with self-contained dioramas for us to stroll past and admire. Serre tells a tale meant to bewitch and delight her audience (…) presenting us with the perfect diversion. She succeeds brilliantly on every count, demonstrating both exceptional clarity of tone and agility of invention.’ – Tara Cheesman, Vol 1 Brooklyn

‘Serre’s language is tight and fabulist, a slim and sensuous fairy tale that reads like something born from an orgy between Charles Perrault, Shirley Jackson, and Angela Carter (hubba hubba).’ – Lauren Friedlander, Full-Stop

‘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

‘A rollicking, not-suitable-for-work fable about three young governesses not particularly well suited to work. In the course of just over a hundred pages, Anne Serre takes on one of the mainstays of Victorian literature: the eroticized tabula rasa of the young governess who hovers, slim-waisted and beholden, somewhere between the world of her wards and that of her employer. The operation Serre performs on this figure is far more complex, and far more satisfying, than a simple inversion of gendered power dynamics: in Hutchinson’s taut English, the text quivers with a delectable, subtle tension from start to finish. (…) I devoured this one in a single sitting and was immediately seized by the urge to start in on it all over again.’ – LitHub

‘…young women trapped in a remote rambling house, a possible curse and an almost certain metamorphosis, but nothing is ever quite what you might expect (...) It is a hymn to voluptuous pleasure, a retelling of classic tales that foregrounds female sexual desire, an enchantment of the senses. If you like dark, decadent narratives, then it’s well worth losing yourself in The Governesses for an hour or two.’ – Translating Women

‘The simple, sensual writing and nineteenth-century Charles Perrault atmosphere are strangely contemporary, with their underlying frisson evoking the dangerous power of insouciance and open sexuality.’ – Bookblast