As much about Everywoman as one particular woman, French author Ernaux's autobiographical novel laconically describes the cruel realities of old age for a woman once vibrant and independent. The narrator, a middle-aged writer, decides that the only way she can accept her mother's death is to begin ``to write about my mother. She is the only woman who really meant something to me and she had been suffering from senile dementia for two years...I would also like to capture the real woman, the woman who existed independently from me, born on the outskirts of a small Normandy town, and who died in the geriatric ward of a hospital in the suburbs of Paris.'' And she proceeds to tell the story of this woman--who ``preferred giving to everybody rather than taking from them,'' fiercely ambitious and anxious to better herself and her daughter--for whom she worked long hours in the small cafÇ and store the family owned. There are the inevitable differences and disputes as the daughter, better educated, rebels against the mother, but the mother makes ``the greatest sacrifice of all, which was to part with me.'' The two women never entirely lose contact, however, as the daughter marries, the father dies, and both women move. Proud and self-sufficient, the mother lives alone, but then she has an accident, develops Alzheimer's, and must move to a hospital. A year after her death, the daughter, still mourning, observes, ``I shall never hear the sound of her voice again--the last bond between me and the world I come from has been severed.'' Never sentimental and always restrained: a deeply affecting account of mothers and daughters, youth and age, and dreams and reality. A love story, in other words, bittersweet like all the best.