LET THE NIGHT TAKE ME
(Belfond, 208 pages, 2018)
*** WINNER OF 2018 PRIX FEMINA DES LYCEENS ***
Clémence is eight years old, the cherished child of two parents who love each other intensely. Away from the hustle and bustle of city life, Alexandre and Rosalie Sauvage have created around themselves and their daughter a bubble shield of happiness. In their remote rural community, Alexandre is the local schoolteacher and Rosalie is a house caretaker. The two of them, each in their own way, instill in their daughter their joie de vivre and irrepressible capacity for wonder. While Alexandre introduces Clémence to the beauty of nature on their daily walks to school, Rosalie, an exuberant lover of songs and poetry, teaches her the power of books. They form a fusional trio surrounded by a few significant others: Mamoune, Clémence’s down-to-earth and willful grandmother; Lise, her sexually mature cousin; and Just, Clémence’s first crush.
Yet, despite the enchanted and whimsical life the Sauvages create for their daughter, an increasing sense of unease creeps into Clémence’s disquietingly mature voice. Her hindsights and reasonings are not those of a young girl. The darkness that seeps into her words and thoughts forebodes the disruption of her blissful childhood. Mid-novel, the suspense abruptly ends. Clémence’s memories from then on cease to be hers alone. They become deeply entangled with those of a father trapped in the past and who would rather cling to pain than nothing at all.
Desesquelles meanders effortlessly through different temporalities and a constellation of contrasting emotions. Written in a poetic and intoxicating prose, the novel oscillates between joy and sorrow, plenitude and absence, and weaves them into a poignant portrait of childhood, love, and loss. Let the Night Take Me offers a luminous reflection on the danger of happiness, the fragility of our closest bonds, the endurance of grief, and the formidable strength of memory.
Isabelle Desesquelles is the author of seven novels, two works of nonfiction, and three children’s books. Her most recent two novels—Les hommes meurent, les femmes vieillissent (2014) and Un jour on fera l’amour (2017)—were both published by Belfond. Let the Night Take Me was in line for the 2018 Prix Femina, and won the 2018 Femina Prix des Lyceens.