Et pourtant, en rangeant les affaires de Zita, après l’enterrement, Ondine découvre le dernier livre de sa mère, non publié, son autobiographie.
Le lecteur entre alors de plein fouet dans la vie extraordinaire de Zita, petite fille pauvre, élevée dans la loge de son énorme mère, Madame Lourdes.
Devenue la protégée de la famille propriétaire de l’immeuble dans lequel elle vit, elle découvre la haute société, la vie facile de ceux qui ont les moyens, la culture, la finesse. Après son bac, elle gagne son indépendance en devenant une des filles de Madame Claude et par la même occasion la maîtresse du grand auteur Romain Kiev. Coqueluche du tout-Paris des années 1970, elle illustre ce temps où tout était possible.
Les fêtes, les drogues, Yves Saint-Laurent, les belles voitures, on suit Zita dans un tourbillon d’avant crise. Mais aussi dans sa chute, dans sa déchéance. Lorsque l’on est monté si haut, on ne peut que redescendre très bas.
It is not until she walks past a newspaper kiosk in Nice that Ondine learns that her mother, the great writer Zita Chalitzine, has committed suicide. She was found in a car, swathed in a magnificent white fur coat. Zita, who spent her life generating scandal, is sticking to her reputation. Right up until her death she was still making sure she was talked about: she’s accused of having merely leant her name to the books that made her famous. Ondine does not want to know anything about this woman who was only a pale imitation of what a mother should be and who never told her who her father was.
Yet, when she is sorting through Zita’s belongings after the funeral, Ondine comes across her mother’s last and unpublished book, her autobiography.
The reader is then taken full throttle into Zita’s extraordinary life. A poor child, brought up by her huge mother Madame Lourdes who worked as a concierge. Taken in as a protégée of the family who owned the building where she lived, she was introduced to high society and the easy life enjoyed by those who have funds, culture and refinement. When she leaves school she achieves independence by becoming one of Madame Claude’s “girls” and mistress to the great author Romain Kiev. She became the darling of Paris in the 1970s and embodied that decade when everything was possible. Parties, drugs, Yves Saint-Laurent, beautiful cars… we follow Zita on the whirlwind before it all goes wrong. But also as she falls and goes into decline. When you climb so very high, you have a long, long way to fall.
Born the year of a historic drought, Adélaïde de Clermont-Tonnerre attended the prestigious école normale supérieure teacher training college then worked in business banking in France and Mexico before becoming a columnist for the culture section of Point de Vue. Fur is her first novel.