(Belfond, 400 pages, 2018)
Lydia’s father, Mohsin, dies on December 9, 2011, in a retirement home in Saint-Ouen, France. To Lydia, Mohsin was a quiet and isolated old man who loved plants and quoting poetry, particularly the Persian love poem “Layla and Majnun.” But when Mohsin dies, he leaves a letter for Lydia in which he confesses to murdering an innocent young woman thirty years before—along with a mysterious box of photos of himself and a young girl that predate her birth, exposing a life Lydia didn’t know Mohsin had lived.
Having immigrated to Créteil, France, in the late 1970s from Algeria, Mohsin lived in Le Château, a decrepit mansion turned communal home, with three other families. Lydia seeks out the members of Mohsin’s former “family,” both living and dead, to discover the truth of her father’s past life. With the help of Mohammed, a florist; Ali, a financial analyst; Luna, a neurosurgeon from Seattle; Sakina, Mohsin’s old friend; and the old diary of a man named Marqus, Lydia meets Hind, Mohsin’s first “daughter.” As their stories unfold, each “family member” testifying to Mohsin’s past—and their own lives as immigrants conforming to French culture—Lydia uncovers more and more of Mohsin and Hind’s relationship, and the reasons for Hind’s notable absence.
Brilliant and shocking, Hind’s Fool is a force to be reckoned with. Through the voices of several characters, whose memories are shrouded by their emotions and prejudices, Bertille Dutheil elegantly paints the story of an absent and voiceless heroine, exploring the questions of immigration, diaspora, and assimilation into an adopted culture while preserving your own.
Bertille Dutheil lives in Paris. Currently a graduate student of history at Université Paris 1, she has also lived in Beirut to conduct her research. Hind’s Fool is her first novel.