La femme de Gilles by Madeleine Bourdouxhe

To all my fellow women out there.

If your partner has been unfaithful, please don’t blame the other woman. She has not made any promise to you to be faithful. She has no obligation to take care of you, to look after your feelings or anything like that. She has no part of your relationship.

Blame your partner. It was them who promised to be faithful, they who are in a relationship with you and it was them who did the bad thing. Blame your partner, not the other woman.

Now, going back to the book Le Femme de Gilles (Gilles’s woman). It’s about an affair, if you couldn’t guess from my introduction. Elisa is married to Gilles, a factory worker in 1930s Belgium, whom starts an affair with Victorine, Elisa’s sister (And no, that doesn’t change my introduction). Elisa, a stereotypical house wife, decides to deal with it by hoping it goes over.

Elisa didn’t think about anything else but Gilles, Gilles didn’t think about anything else bt himself. (Chapter XVII)

It says something about the writing when a character that should, and did, make me shout at the wall due to her stupidity and in my eyes weakness, does invoke a lot of sympathy. I understand she doesn’t know what to do and the use of descriptive language is absolutely amazing.

These read like real, three dimensional characters and that’s good considering the book is 9782742790098-us-300about 130 pages. It also touches on the real life setting with jealousy and how other people read a situation like that being Judgey McJudgepants, but doesn’t really offer any help.

The only time when reading I felt cheated of anything was when it came to Victorine, who never became anything else but ‘Evil temptress who lured poor Gilles into his bad fate’. I would have handled it if the book was written in the first person and was told by Elisa, because then you have the unreliable narrator, but we don’t so the narrator just fails.

I don’t identify with Elisa, nor have I experienced what she is going through, but the fact that I am sitting there hoping her plans will succeed (however stupid I find them at times) makes me have to recommend this book. As someone quite sure she would have dumped any man being unfaithful to me, and knowing strong feminists often get critiqued for being too judgemental towards women who choose to be housewives (and Elisa is a character whom would have chosen to be a housewife even if she wasn’t living in a time and place where that was expected of her), it’s nice to know I can read and enjoy story like this, and feel sympathy and root for a character like this.


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