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Book of the Week: THE SECOND WOMAN by Louise Mey

Sandrine hates her body & life until she meets a caring man & father. However grateful she is for her place in his home, the first woman who disappeared won't go away.

The Second Woman was published by Pushkin Press, Vertigo collection, translated by Louise Rogers Lalaurie. and had been supported by the Institut français du Royaume-Uni as part of the Burgess Programme.

Sandrine has a happy life, living with a man she loves and his child. Gone is the woman who was once a lonely person. Then one day, the first woman appears out of the blue, the mother of the child, the ex-wife. Sandrine becomes then the second woman. Page after page, and so bit by bit, everyone's life shatters as the first woman starts to remember, and so does the second woman. These two women have much more to share than love for the same man. But is this really love?

With the past and the present starting their dialogue, Sandrine starts revealing herself and her daily life. She unravels her insecurities and her doubts, sharing her deepest thoughts. We hold our breath with her in this spiral of events until the climax. As she is getting lost, caught between contradictions, she ends being trapped. Who shall she trust? The man she loves, the others, or her inner voice?

Louise Mey paints a vivid picture of domestic violence and how it takes hold. In this brilliant novel, she depicts how victims are being paralyzed by domestic violence and how difficult it is to get out of this vicious circle. A book that makes us ask questions and revise our ready-made sentences "Just leave" or "Why doesn't she leave him? ".

Read an extract from The Second Woman


Tomorrow the first woman will be there. Here, at his house, at their house, at her house. Her house. Sandrine cannot believe it. It’s all so strange. Should she treat her as a rival, an enemy, an ex-wife? She feels suddenly hot. Bittersweet saliva rises in her throat. Quickly, she replaces the iron and runs to be sick in the kitchen sink.

Outside, the noise of the mower is interrupted. A few seconds more and he comes back inside through the patio door, looks around for her. She has just rinsed her mouth with a glass of water and is afraid he’ll come close, smell the acrid stench of vomit that she can still taste on her lips. Fortunately, all he says is, Don’t leave the iron unattended like that. T hen he crosses to the pantry, where they keep the slug pellets – not in the garage because the box might get damp and come apart and they’d have to throw the whole lot away and money doesn’t grow on trees.

When he emerges, she smiles reassuringly, says they can eat a vegetable gratin tonight, if he likes. He stares at her, empty-eyed, then nods and heads back outside to the garden. She watches him through the kitchen window, his bare forearms and the small bald patch at the back of his skull. She goes upstairs and brushes her teeth.

About the author

Louise Mey (b.1983) is a Paris-based-author of contemporary noir novels dealing with themes of domestic and sexual violence, and harassment often with a feminist slant. The Second Woman is her fourth novel, but the first to be translated into English.

About the translator

Louise Rogers Lalaurie's translations from French include Frédéric Dard's The King of Fools, and The Inspector of Strange and Unexplained Deaths by Olivier-Barde Cabuçon, both from Pushkin Vertigo. Her work has been shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award and the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature. She is the author of Matisse: The Books (2020).

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