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2020 | Best fiction, autobiography and memoirs

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

The best novels of 2020 highlight empowered women’s voices: Vanessa Springora reclaims her own story after being abused by famous French writer Matzneff as a young teenager, Constance Debré asserts her individual and sexual freedom despite all social norms, Dima Abdallah speaks of exile and uprooting as a French Lebanese women. Camille de Toledo explores the historical and transgenerational traumas which shape our personal histories and Hervé Le Tellier develops a deep existential reflexion in his exciting Goncourt Prize winning novel.

Le consentement, Vanessa Springora | Grasset

Thirty years ago, Vanessa Springora was the teenage muse of one of France's most celebrated writers and hence a footnote in the narrative of an influential man. At the end of 2019, as women around the world began to speak out Springora now in her forties, decided to reclaim her own story. She denounces the abusive hold of Matzneff, the complacency of adults and the complicity of the intellectual world. Devastating in its sobriety, Springora's cathartic memoir is a major testimony of the #Metoo mouvement.

Love me tender, Constance Debré | Flammarion

Following her coming out, Constance Debré left everything: her husband, her job and her home. She is now fighting for the custody of her son, whom she is forbidden to meet without juristic supervision. Despite social pressure, with a sharp writing style, she does not hesitate to share the details of her individuality, sexuality and newly acquired freedom. Her radical quest for the loosening of social norms, mother- love and female homosexuality form an empowering call to reflexion and also an explosive autobiographical novel about inner-revolutions.

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L’anomalie, Hervé Le Tellier | Gallimard

In his eighth novel Hervé Le Tellier tells the story of a dozen passengers on a Paris-New York flight whose destinies are disturbed by a mysterious temporal phenomenon. Combining different genres the Ulipian writer explores existential questions about identity and perception, resorting to humour, pop culture and literary references. The Goncourt Prize is definitely one of the most exciting novels of the year!

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Thésee, sa vie nouvelle, Camille de Tolédo | Verdier

In 2012, Thésée leaves his hometown in order to escape his family tragedy. He is determined to start a new life away from death and darkness. A box of archives will push him into a labyrinth of memories, helping him to understand a repeating past. Beautifully written, this family investigation embraces the historical and transgenerational traumas which shape our personal histories. Camille de Toledo signs an extraordinary poetical Kaddish about life and loss.

Mauvaises Herbes, Dima Abdallah | Sabine Wespieser

In the midst of the Lebanese civil war during the ceaseless bombing of Beirut, the young narrator feared nothing, certain of being safe thanks to her powerful father. Yet, when she turns twelve, the family goes into exile in Paris, and leaves without the father. In her remarkable first novel, Dima Abdallah offers a moving variation on the themes of exile and uprootedness, asserting herself as a great new voice in Lebanese literature.

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