Une année étrangère
Rights sold to: Germany (Fischer) - Italy (Ugo Guanda), The Netherlands (Van Gennep), Portugal (Platano)
Having set off to Germany as an au pair girl, seventeen-year-old Laura finds she does not speak the country’s language as well as she thought. Next it is her host family, a couple with two children, who perplex her with their simple way of life, their behaviour and habits. Is she here to look after the children, do housework, improve her German or actually just grow up? She has ended up in an average family which appears to be less torn apart than her own, to harbour fewer secrets, and yet Laura gradually comes face to face with a number of mysteries: about origins and inheritance. She would so like to delve into these characters for some truth, some meaning that would finally fill the gaps and silences in her endless adolescence. When she grows close to the only boy in the family, does she recognise the younger brother she has lost? Is she right to wait so feverishly for news of her own family back in France? Having found a copy of Mein Kampf in the German grandfather’s house she jumps to conclusions and can’t help reading those forbidden pages, only to find she is disgusted as well as fascinated by them. The children’s mother falls ill. The father seems to grow closer to Laura every day. What does he want from her? Laura wonders what price she has to pay to become a woman, to confront her future and to leave this house so that she can go home to her own.
Following on from four other novels (La chambre des parents, Nico, Marée noire and J’apprends), a factual account (A présent) and L’amour est très surestimé which won the 2007 Goncourt Prize for a novella, Brigitte Giraud continues with her very personal form of writing. With A Year Abroad she has broadened her horizons as well as her exploration of the world and of people. When a language escapes you so you can’t grasp the codes and systems of a group of individuals, then the world itself seems to be hiding from you, putting up barriers and stopping you living your life.