La Femme de Gilles

Translated and with an Afterword by Faith Evans
New Introduction by Elisa Albert

Part of The Neversink Library

Just after her novel La Femme de Gilles was first published in 1937, Madeleine Bourdouxhe disassociated herself from her publisher (which had been taken over by the Nazis) and spent most of World War II in Brussels, actively working for the resistance. Though she continued to write, her work was largely overlooked by history . . . until now.

Set among the dusty lanes and rolling valleys of rural 1930s Belgium, La Femme de Gilles is the saga of a young mother, Elisa, whose world is overturned when she discovers that her husband, Gilles, has fallen in love with her younger sister, Victorine. Devastated, Elisa unravels.

As controlled as Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment and as propulsive as Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, La Femme de Gilles is a hauntingly contemporary story of desperation, lust, and obsession, from an essential early-feminist writer.

MADELEINE BOURDOUXHE was born in Belgium in 1906. Her first novel, La Femme de Gilles, was published in 1937, but the outbreak of World War II interrupted her writing career, and her second book, A la recherche de Marie wasn’t published until 1943. A volume of shorts stories, A Nail, a Rose, first appeared in English in 1989, followed by translations of La Femme de Gilles and Marie. Bourdouxhe died in 1996.

FAITH EVANS is a literary agent and translator from the French.

ELISA ALBERT is the author of After Birth (2015), The Book of Dahlia (2008), How This Night is Different (2006), and the editor of the anthology Freud’s Blind Spot (2010).

“[A] novella about a devastating love triangle, finally translated into English.” —Elle

“No book this year made me feel as hopeful for the future as this one, so clearly did it reveal women’s past patriarchal oppression and the distance we have come over the course of the last few decades. Read it and rage and then do something.”—Kristin Iversen, Nylon

“The story of a tragic love triangle that will haunt the reader long after the last page.”—The Missourian

“A lyrical but dark exploration of wifely devotion.” —Flavorwire

“Quietly tragic…Though Bourdouxhe doesn’t rescue this character she’s created for us, she gave the women of her time one portrait of female suffering, made them less alone…”—Los Angeles Review of Books

“Nuanced…[La Femme de Gilles] is incredibly successful for its fierce skill at what we might now call Ferrante-esque immersion in the interiority of its female protagonist…Timely.”—3:AM

“This 1937 novel…established Bourdouxhe as an early, essential feminist author…A heartrending study of the compromises a woman is willing to make to preserve her marriage.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)

“Madeleine Bourdouxhe is one of the more remarkable literary discoveries of the last few years.” —Jonathan Coe

“A marvelous, rediscovered novel about selfless love.” —Kate Kellaway, Observer

“A haunting, slim novel which has the mesmeric inevitability of a classical tragedy.” Independent on Sunday