Victorineby Catherine Texier
In 1899, Victorine Texier abandons her small French village, her husband, and her two young children to follow her lover to Indochina. She has fallen for Antoine, her childhood sweetheart, and when his work sends him to Asia she is compelled to go with him, and to leave everything she knows behind. Their five weeks together onboard the ship to Indochina are a kind of honeymoon, a prelude to their liberation in a sultry new world of frangipani trees and monsoons. Victorine gives herself over completely to this exhilarating new life of colonial extravagance — that is, until she encounters her youngest sister, who has also been living in Hanoi and Saigon. This reunion, both joyous and tense, reminds Victorine all too painfully of her life and family in France and forces her to confront exactly what she has done. Vividly narrated through a series of flashbacks, Victorine is a richly textured and passionate story of rebellion, guilt, and unruly love.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
“Brilliant. . . .the place itself is the seduction.” —Bookforum
“Absorbing . . . The novelist's brilliance in evoking the quiet tensions of marriage and motherhood engender an immediate sympathy. . . Seamlessly interwoven are Victorine's reflections on her turbulent life, offering a glimpse back into the incredible pain and sense of betrayal her romantic whimsy caused.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Flaubert's classic hovers around the hem of this novel. . . . Texier has an unsparing sense of ethical complexity, the partial satisfaction that must suffice for a person torn between irreconcilable desires and responsibilities." —The Christian Science Monitor
“A spellbinding novel made all the more powerful by a profound examination of remorse.” —The Sunday Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA)
“Mesmerizing . . . With lush, vivid description, Catherine Texier brings to life both the world around Victorine and the woman herself.” -Booklist
“A novel of historic change, adventure and passion that keeps you feverishly turning the pages.” -The Herald Express (UK)
“Lovely and original...A tantalizing mix of fact and fantasy: the author inhabits her great-grandmother's soul.” -Laura Shaine Cunningham, author of Sleeping Arrangements and Dreams of Rescue
“While [Victorine] can be enjoyed simply for its love story, its period flavor, and its gorgeous settings, it also offers an honest portrayal of just how wrenching and lonely rebellion can be.” —The Boston Globe
“Texier beautifully evokes the textures of daily life: a crisply told, rattling good tale.”
-The Independent (UK)
“A steely, delicate fictional tale of unaccounted-for years in the life of Texier's own great-grandmother...reminiscent both of Madame Bovary and Duras' The Lover.” -Publishers Weekly
“Texier knows how to do place, and mood, and how to make the reader understand the depth of personal dilemma. It's a haunting and remarkable read.” -Joanna Trollope, author of Other People's Children
“A sensuous, devoted piece of work that works hard to evoke French domesticity and later the headily foreign atmosphere of colonial Vietnam.” —The Miami Herald
“[An] evocative, erotic and enjoyable story.” —Sunday Telegraph (UK)
“A marvelous achievement, a historical novel that reads less like an invention than like a discovery, a love story that has sprung to life of its own accord from an old trunk. Graceful, subtle and vivid.” -Paul LaFarge, author of Haussmann, or the Distinction
“Romantic . . . Echoes of both Madame Bovary and Kate Chopin's The Awakening suffuse a nevertheless inventive and artfully composed delineation of a beguiling and complicated woman's arduous journey toward self-understanding. A subtly textured fourth novel: Texier's best yet.” -Kirkus Reviews
“Elegant and affecting.” -Scotland on Sunday
“Elegant as a pair of satin gloves, Catherine Texier's Victorine is the enchanting narrative of a unique woman. This is a seductive work of art.” -Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Crescent
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- Random House
- NOOK Book
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- 490 KB
Read an Excerpt
September 8, 1940 11:15 a.m.
There’s barely enough time to go to the beach before Maurice comes to pick her up for lunch, but she doesn’t want to miss seeing the ocean for the last time. The rain, which has poured down for the past three days, has finally stopped and washed the sky a deep, spotless blue. She hurries through the bungalow, impersonal now that most of the furniture has been moved, folds a blanket into her tapestry bag, and puts on rubber galoshes over her soft woolen slippers; the sand might still be damp.
The old steamer trunk stands in the middle of the empty parlor, where the movers have left it, after having brought it up from the basement the day before. The trunk is smaller than she remembers it, its leather scuffed and scratched from years of use. She runs a finger through the dust. It’s been forty years.
She struggles to slide open the locks. A heavy smell permeates the old clothes: sandalwood. Her hands fumble along one side of the trunk, then the other. She had slipped in the diary afterward, hastily, she remembers. She pulls out a copy of Madame Chrysanthème, a novel by Pierre Loti, then a catalogue of the 1900 World Expo. That one, too, she must have put in the trunk later. Has she misplaced the diary? She finds a few more books, a photo album with a red leather cover, a blue ledger filled with a list of items: white handkerchiefs, pillowcases, tablecloths with point lancé or Valenciennes, each priced in piastres. Finally, her hand feels a rectangular object at the bottom of the trunk. She pulls it out. Yes, it’s the brown notebook. It smells damp and smoky. Without opening it she puts it into her bag and quickly walks out. Drops of water festoon the latticework running under the roof of the bungalow. In the garden, she notices, the hollyhocks, which have grown tall and wild over the summer, are fading to pale lavender and watery pink, as if their colors were running with the late summer rain.
Her joints are swollen with arthritis and her fingers a little twisted at the knuckles. She’s carrying her big tapestry bag by the handle. She’s put on an apron over her dress as if she were going to the backyard to pick a lettuce or a head of chard for dinner, and a cardigan over it; it’s cool by the ocean. The dress is navy blue, printed with tiny white birds or windmills. The cardigan is hand-knitted in a shade of lilac or puce, or just plain gray. Her legs are covered with thick, white cotton stockings. On her feet are the slippers with soft soles and gray pom-poms, and the rubber galoshes over them.
The dories are leaning drunkenly, pastel blotches in the morning sun, their masts teetering low above the wet sand. Just as they had that day when he had come up to her, in his big black overcoat, holding his hat over his chest, bowing. When she was a young bride, before the birth of Daniel, Armand had taken her to Paris and they had gone to visit an exhibition of paintings everybody was talking about. The canvases were covered with tiny splashes of color that blurred when you came up close. But if you took a step back, the scene quivered to life. People said it was sloppy, not good art, and yet now, the beach in the late morning, dotted with the hulls of the dories, mottled with the flickering shadows cast by high, wind-swept clouds, reminds her of those paintings.
She spreads the blanket at the foot of the dunes, sits down, removes her rubber galoshes, and takes the notebook out of her tapestry bag. Forty years, she thinks again. Forty years that she hasn’t seen it or even opened that trunk. It had remained closed through all her moves, from Velluire to Maillezais, from Maillezais to Le Gué de Velluire, from Le Gué de Velluire to Villa Saint-Claude, here, in La Faute.
The brown cardboard cover, she remembers, was originally embossed with arabesques in a Moorish style, probably to imitate Moroccan leather. She opens it. A few letters and yellowed newspaper clippings slip out on her lap. Some of the pages are stuck together. She separates them carefully in order not to tear them. The faint blue lines are barely decipherable now, and the original violet or blue ink has turned a pale umber.
Several pages are covered by foreign words dotted with accents.
Cám o?n Chào Chào tam biet biet chúc ng’u ngonda CÂY BÀNG bún riêuphía nam CÔ CHIÊN Chan doocái màn làm gidóng cua oi dâu nha quêbuô?i tó?i
She reads the words slowly one after another. Most don’t mean anything to her anymore.
A loose page in a thick paper, folded four times, reveals a row of Chinese characters. One of them, she recognizes, spells out her name.
The others are indecipherable to her now.
She leafs back to the beginning of the diary and reads the first entry.
4 Avril 1898
Saw A. on the beach yesterday. They say things always happen for a reason. Do they?
April 1898—she was not yet thirty-two.
Meet the Author
Catherine Texier is the author of three previous novels, Chloé l’Atlantique, Love Me Tender, and Panic Blood, and a memoir, Breakup. She was the coeditor of the literary magazine Between C & D, is a regular contributor to the New York Times, and has written for Newsday, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, and Nerve.com. Texier lives in New York City.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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