Histoire du fils — Marie-Hélène Lafon

Histoire du fils is a family saga spanning the 20th century, focusing particularly on the the story of the eponymous son.

André has never met his father and for the first couple of decades of his life doesn’t know his name. While she is pregnant, his mother agrees with her sister and brother in law that they will raise her son with their girls in the countryside, and ends up being largely absent from André’s life. He has all the happiness of two loving parents — his aunt and uncle — but feels the absence of his biological father.

What’s remarkable is how little really happens in the book, which is itself short. Lafon gives her text — and the events — space to breathe. The search for the biological father is minimal and fairly inconclusive. Does it really matter? Lafon leaves space for us to decide for ourselves. The much more interesting character anyway is the biological mother, who for me is the book’s real main character.

In the absence of trips to France, at least for the foreseeable, I must finally go to the French bookshop in South Kensington, so I can get myself some more Lafon (and pretend I’m on the other side of the Channel).

Leave a Reply