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Book of the Week: Memories of Low Tide by Chantal Thomas

Updated: Sep 5, 2019


'[Chantal Thomas] has invented a new literary genre: the liquid memoir, the watery autobiography... Chantal paints a striking portrait of her mother, so lackluster in the house yet so luminous among the waves... This book of liquid, salty prose that Colette would have liked so much...' --L'Obs



Recalling her own childhood growing up in Arcachon, on the Atlantic coast of France, Chantal Thomas seeks to understand the mystery behind the personality of her mother, a woman once radiant, sensual and bright, but who became fettered and dejected by her domestic life.


Her style mimics the ebb and the flow of the waves as a means to portray the conflicted feelings and memories coming back to the surface, sometimes overwhelming, sometimes soothing. But it is also a way to remind the reader that her own individuality feeds upon that of her mother, and that the facts and feelings she may seek to reject will continue to haunt her as they are part of her.


Memories of Low Tide is published by Pushkin Press and it was translated by

Natasha Lehrer.



'A story of inheritance, of the fluidity of a mother-daughter relationship dissolved in a calm sea, a kind of reverse amniotic fluid, in which to dive and luxuriate deliciously' -- Marie Claire

'This is an infinitely gentle, oblique look at a whole century, passed through as a swimmer crosses the water, from one buoy to another... Haunting and elegiac' -- Livres Hebdo

'As you turn these dazzling pages, you pass from levity to humour, from insouciance to nostalgia, from frivolity to deep solemnity' -- Le Figaro



Chantal Thomas was born in Lyon in 1945, and she was raised in Arcachon, Bordeaux and Paris. She has taught History at a number of French and American universities and is the author of over 20 books, including essays on the Marquis de Sade, Casanova, and Marie Antoinette. She won the Prix Femina for her novel Farewell, My Queen (2002), which was then adapted into a film, and later received the prestigious Roger-Caillois and Prince Pierre de Monaco prizes for her entire oeuvre. Thomas is currently a director of research at the French National Centre for Scientific Research.



Natasha Lehrer has been translating fiction and non-fiction from French to English since 2015. She won the 1917 Scott Moncrieff Prize for translation from French (with Cécile Menon) for Suite for Barbara Loden, by Nathalie Léger, which was also shortlisted for the French-American prize and the Albertine Prize. She is also a literary critic, writing regularly for the TLS and other journals, and an award-winning feature writer. She has an MPhil in Comparative Literature from the University of Paris VIII. She lives in Paris.



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