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LA PETITE by Michèle Halberstadt


by Michèle Halberstadt translated by Linda Coverdale

Pub Date: July 10th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59051-531-0
Publisher: Other Press

Touching glimpse of a young life nearly lost and then redeemed.

In this brief but powerful memoir, film producer and novelist Halberstadt (The Pianist in the Dark, 2011) examines the day, at the age of 12, when she attempted suicide. The book opens with that fateful morning, as the young Parisian girl takes all the pills she can find in the cupboard, then goes to school, waiting to die. The bulk of the narrative explores the incidents leading up to her decision, while the ending relates events in the hours and days after she awoke in the hospital, her plan having only barely gone awry. Halberstadt’s story is a gripping work of psychological introspection, following the traumas and travails of a girl too ordinary to be noticed, yet too brilliant to fully accept that anonymity. As she saw herself, the author was the plain-looking, boring daughter of a good but distant father and thoroughly strict mother. She paled in comparison to her older, beautiful, charming, talented sister, who lorded that superiority over her. Only one person, her grandfather, cared about and understood her. When he died, all she wanted to do was join him. Distant and uncaring, her family tolerated her at best, verbally abused her at worst, until she felt the best thing she could do for everyone involved was to go away. After her suicide attempt failed, however, Halberstadt experienced a sudden rebirth, deciding to live and flourish. The author tells her story passionately, often in short, chopped sentences that underscore the import and weight of her preteen thoughts. She is matter-of-fact rather than melodramatic, giving the readers a sense of the resignation and alienation she felt as a girl.

A haunting story with a triumphant conclusion.