DAUGHTERS OF THE HOUSE by Michèle Roberts

DAUGHTERS OF THE HOUSE

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A 1992 Booker Prize finalist, this gothic sixth novel by a London author, poet, and playwright (The Visitation--not reviewed) plumbs the dark secrets left in a villa in Normandy by the Nazi officers who were once billeted there. Twenty years ago, during the French Occupation of WW II, ascetic Antoinette Martin of Normandy became pregnant and was forced to give up her dream of becoming a nun. She married a local low-born admirer and gave birth to a girl, ThÇräse; soon after, Antoinette's widowed sister, Madeleine, returned to the villa with her own young daughter, LÇonie, to keep Antoinette company. Cousins ThÇräse and LÇonie, who disliked each other instantly, struggled through their postwar childhoods in an uneasy truce, aware but not aware that in the depths of the old villa lived a secret they were forbidden to uncover. As the girls approached puberty, Antoinette died of breast cancer; Madeleine made a bid to marry her sister's widower; and ThÇräse and LÇonie learned that a Jewish family hidden by the Martins during the war were betrayed by one of the villagers and murdered in the nearby forest. The Catholic cousins' reaction to this horrifying news was to witness the miraculous appearance of the Virgin Mary on the very spot where the Jews were killed. Soon, spiritually ambitious ThÇräse learned to use her visions to secure herself a place in a convent, while LÇonie gave up on spiritualism altogether and threw herself into a life of sensuality. The final discovery--that Antoinette may have been impregnated by the man who betrayed the Jews, and that the cousins may actually be the twin offsprings of that act--separated ThÇräse and LÇonie for 20 years- -until the burden of their secret brings ThÇräse home to complete their story. Breathless and sinister but frustratingly opaque: the power of Roberts's novel lies in what remains unsaid.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1993
ISBN: 0-688-04610-X
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1993




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