Best Books in Fiction 2018, Publishers Weekly (USA)

Longlisted for Best Translated Book Awards, 2019

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

Read exclusive excerpt in The London Magazine, Granta. and in TANK

‘A delightful sabbath.’ — Libération

‘Every so often a different creature darts into view: a novel that is genuinely original – and, often, very quietly so. Call it the anglerfish of literature, after those solitary, crazy-looking lurkers in the sea’s deepest trenches. The strangeness of such stories isn’t just at the level of construction; it emerges from the writer’s very perception of the world and seeps into the syntax...“The Governesses” is not a treatise but an aria, and one delivered with perfect pitch: a minor work, defiantly so, but the product of a significant talent.’ – 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 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. This is a narrative that offers many pleasures and refuses to resolve its contradictions. The estate grounds on which Laura, Eléonore, and Inès run wild, impaling themselves on their sexual prey with an animal innocence that is judged “obscene” but “not disgraceful,” is at once a Garden of Eden and a downy burrow of iniquity; their frenetic sexuality is liberated and, at the same time, shrouded by the patriarchal haze given off by Monsieur Austeur’s “silky long cigars,” which orders their collective life. Though hunters in their own right, these young women are shaped and, quite literally, sustained by the male gaze. I devoured this one in a single sitting and was immediately seized by the urge to start in on it all over again.’ – LitHub

‘We have 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

‘Playful and capricious... As light and cool as a breeze on a summer’s afternoon and yet as dark as the soul of someone calmly intent on racking up all seven deadly sins. Every page brings with it something unexpected, exquisite, and perverse, more or less in equal proportions, producing a work that is by turns gripping, hilarious, and sometimes just flat-out gobsmacking... A flowing font of pleasure — relentless, excessive, often grotesque, sometimes refined, altogether overwhelming — by which sensual experience, in language, is very nearly transmuted into a literal feast for the senses.’ – This Is Splice

‘A fusion of modern fairytale and magical realism... In the tradition of Angela Carter, Serre employs language and imagery that bring the fairytale staples back to their dark, sexually-charged roots while at the same time exploring masculinity and gender dynamics through a feminist lens.’ – Pendora Magazine

’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

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

 

On THE GOVERNESSES

Summer Books of 2019,: Fiction in Translation, Ángel Gurría-Quintana, Financial Times, 21 June 2019
The Governesses Book Review, Molly Govus, Buzz, 17 June 2019
Review | The Governesses by Anne Serre, tr. by Mark Hutchinson, Briony Willis, The London Magazine, 20 May 2019
The Governesses [Why This Book Should Win], Chad Post, Three Percent, 25 April 2019
The Governesses by Anne Serre, Kimbofo, Reading Matters Blog, 16 April 2019
Debauchery and Delight’, Mia Spence, Splice, 2 April 2019
The Governesses by Anne Serre, Platon Poulas, Pendora Magazine, 1 April 2019
A Feminist Fairytale? Anne Serre, The Governesses, Translating Women, 27 March 2019
Schooldays: Agnes Grey & The Governesses, Anne Goodwin, Annethology, 26 March 2019
Book 2 Review The Governesses, Anne Serre & Now, Now, Louison, Jean Frémon Les Fugitives, Georgia DC, Bookblast, 25 March 2019
Tainted Love: Translation Picks for Valentine’s Day, Heather Cleary, Literary Hub, 11 February 2019
French to English Translation - hot off the press! Catherine Clifford on France 24, 7 February 2019
The Governesses Offers subtle lessons in shame, constraint and lust’, Parul Sehgal, The New York Times, 27 November 2018
The Governesses - Anne Serre, Lauren Friedlander, Full Stop, 8 November 2018
The Inhumanity of Isolation: A Review of Anne Serre’s The Governesses, Tara Cheesman, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, 31 October 2018
'The Keatsian twinning of joy and melancholy...' - Publishers Weekly, September 2018
'Each sentence evokes a dream logic both languid and circuitous...' - Kirkus, 21 August 2018