Monday, February 7, 2022

Spotlight of Rose Royal by By Nicolas Mathieu • Translated by Sam Taylor




Prix Goncourt-winning author Nicolas Mathieu’s latest, ROSE ROYAL: A Love Story (Other Press Hardcover; On-Sale: February 22, 2022), offers an electric novella that opens as a domestic drama and evolves into a thrilling cat-and-mouse melee.


Nothing is as it seems in Mathieu’s nuanced portrait of a woman on the verge.


Equally rich in heart-pounding suspense and wry truths about aging and gender dynamics, ROSE ROYAL holds appeal for fans of noir master Dorothy B. Hughes, Tom Perrotta’s Mrs. Fletcher, and the film Promising Young Woman.


 **A NEW YORK TIMES Globetrotting Selection**

A FINANCIAL TIMES “Summer 2020: Fiction in Translation” Selection**

**A TIMES (UK) “2020 Best Translated Fiction of the Year” Selection**

**A SPECTATOR “2020 Books of the Year” Selection**

**An OPEN LETTERS REVIEW "Best Books of 2020: Literature in Translation" Selection**

**The Albertine Book Club: Winter-Spring 2020**



“The presence of a .38 caliber handgun hangs over this taut novella, told in three exactingly written episodes, from Prix Goncourt winner Mathieu (And Their Children After Them) …Mathieu does a fine job capturing the universal ambience of a good bar and its regulars. This is an eccentric little book with depths beyond its page count.”PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“This taut work has the power of a fable, with a cautionary moral about the violence lurking beneath every aspect of modern life.”—Rumaan Alam, New York Times bestselling author of Leave the World Behind

“A searing, unflinching portrait of a woman’s life in free fall. Rose Royal is a dark gem.”—Elizabeth Hand, author of Generation Loss and Curious Toys

“Reminiscent of Chopin’s The Awakening, Nicolas Mathieu has delivered a brief, fierce glimpse of lives compounded and compressed beneath the weight of patriarchy, where the control is as often mental as physical and the violence is as much silent as deafening.” David Joy, author of When These Mountains Burn, winner of the Dashiell Hammett Award for Literary Excellence in Crime Writing


Praise for NICOLAS MATHIEU (And Their Children After Them)

“Throughout this page-turner of a novel, there are elements of Michel Houellebecq’s suffocating atmospheres of Occidental decadence, rife with soul-crushingly pointless labor and leisure pursuits and the impossibility of meaningful interpersonal bonds. There is also a whiff of Camus’s ‘The Stranger,’ as the centuries-long confrontation between the white Frenchman and the Arab, the colonizer and the colonized, the native and the interloper — whose positions, the factory workers might argue, have now been reversed — moves from colony to motherland… I couldn’t put the book down. I didn’t want it to end.”—NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

“A portrait of teenagers growing up in a forgotten, hopeless region of France in the 1990s...Mathieu's book has been acclaimed in France for shining a light on a forgotten part of the country...[he has] received domestic acclaim and international attention for writing about working-class youth.”THE New York Times

“Mathieu’s stunning, bittersweet Prix Goncourt–winning English debut follows a teen boy through four summers in a dreary valley in eastern France. In 1992, 14-year-old Anthony schemes with his friends to ogle sunbathers at a ‘bare-ass’ lakeside beach while echoing their parents’ racism in response to a neighboring boy’s recent drowning…Anthony’s solitary yearning emerges in staccato lines … and his restlessness is reflected in Mathieu’s shaggy, aimless story. Anthony’s and his friends’ repeated adolescent male behavior—hanging out on the beach, drinking, trying to hook up with girls—is depicted in beautifully observed detail, while Mathieu’s unblinking descriptions of Anthony’s parents, Hélène and Patrick, a fading beauty and a hard-drinking racist beaten down by their dead-end blue-collar jobs, give the novel greater impact. Anthony’s provincial story is bookended by moments—the release of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and France’s World Cup victory—that stir him, but don’t change his life, and he has little to look forward to beyond the poverty and bleak outlook of his parents and friends as he enters adulthood. Mathieu’s subtle craft will enrapture readers and appeal to fans of Édouard Louis.”PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Starred Review

“Mathieu’s lament over the social and psychic wreckage left by deindustrialisation aligns him to other literary witnesses to a forgotten underclass in French culture today, such as Édouard Louis and Didier Eribon. His rapt attention to the humdrum, epoch-defining detail of daily life — the snacks, the shows, the catchphrases, the sneaker brands, the radio hits, all ‘the dense materiality of things’ — may bring to mind the icily forensic gaze of Michel Houellebecq. Mathieu, however, has a different perspective — and a much more loveable one… And Their Children After Them may sound like a tract. It feels, though, more like an elegiac anthem, one drenched in ‘the terrible sweetness of belonging’.”—FINANCIAL TIMES

“It’s the sort of chronicle you didn’t realize was missing until you find yourself reading it for the first time, finding out, as this reader did, that in many ways it’s the story of your own wasted youth, discovering that the time period it recounts is not just the intimate stuff of your own memories but actually a perfectly bygone era with its own irreducible look and feel — a decade ripe for its novel. This is what And Their Children After Them masterfully provides. . .Mathieu creates a memorable adolescent dramatis personae to people this vivid, vacuous little world. . .a novel that is delightfully detached and disabused, and yet knows when to let down its guard and be moving.”—LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS

“The winner of the 2018 Goncourt Prize, Nicolas Mathieu’s second novel is a masterly, far-reaching exploration of a de-industrialized country. . .Mathieu’s handling of quotidian and often gritty subjects is disconcertingly lyrical, and it is rendered well by William Rodarmor’s translation. . .And Their Children After Them (Leurs enfants après eux) invites comparison with the great realist and naturalist writers of the French nineteenth century. In particular, Mathieu shares his sustained social interest with Émile Zola, whose Rougon-Macquart cycle charted the lives of one family over twenty novels. Equally, his novel echoes Balzac in depicting the hierarchies of a social microcosm: even Heillange has its own bourgeoisie, occupying sought-after positions at the town hall. More recently, the work of Annie Ernaux, Didier Eribon and Édouard Louis – with their emphasis on France’s forgotten margins – springs to mind.”TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

 “Winner of the Prix Goncourt in France, Mathieu's first novel to be translated into English follows three teenagers and their families through four summers in an economically depressed valley far removed from Paris. . .Told in four sections, each unfolding over another summer, the novel details the torpor and hopelessness of a deindustrialized valley where children deal hashish and shoot their BB guns at the rusting carcasses of blast furnaces. Mathieu captures the vulnerability and awkwardness of adolescence with painful acuity as the teenagers struggle to find their ways in the world. But his interest extends further, to their families and the place itself; characters and setting are inextricable, as the book's best writing reveals. . .Mathieu's sympathy for his characters is cleareyed and generous, and the final section—showing the entire valley caught up in World Cup soccer fever as the French team competes for a place in the finals—is surprisingly moving. A gritty, expansive coming-of-age novel filled with sex and violence that manages to be tender, even wryly hopeful.”KIRKUS REVIEWS

“Winner of France’s Prix Goncourt, Mathieu’s English debut focuses on coming-of-age angst while also speaking volumes for the disenfranchised, who rarely have a voice in their country’s conversation.”—LIBRARY JOURNAL

“This sultry, sweaty coming-of-age novel follows the people of Heillange, a small town in eastern France. Over the course of four summers throughout the 1990s, teenagers become adults, adults regress to teenage behavior, the region is deindustrialized, and life is created and lost….Subtly tragic and deeply human, Rodarmor’s translation is sure to please English language readers of Mathieu’s Prix Goncourt–winning novel.”—BOOKLIST

“[A] sad, sweet homage to the forgotten corners of the world, even though the book focuses on just one: an industrial valley in France. Pocked with physical landmarks (blast furnace ruins) of more prosperous years when their fathers worked, the emotional, cultural and social landscapes fare no better. It’s a story of what happens when deindustrialization and disease sets in among young people who seek a way up and out of those legacies. Winner of the Prix Goncourt, Mathieu’s book could be set anywhere: Michigan, Maine, Texas, Germany, or the Swedish bruk….if you seek the truth about the working-class, this is a book for you.”—LITERARY HUB

“Nicolas Mathieu’s Goncourt-winning And Their Children After Them, translated by William Rodarmor. . .winningly [weaves] people, place and time into a lyrical, almost-Lawrentian saga of left-behind France.”SPECTATOR

"…exceptional...There are echoes of Camus’s classic [The Stranger] in Nicolas Mathieu’s second novel, which won France’s prestigious Prix Goncourt. Not only is it steeped in as much tension and violence as its literary precursor, but it’s also as good an account of disaffected youth as I’ve read in a long time....Mathieu builds the lives of these bored youngsters with such attention and authenticity that the reader truly cares about its climax, Mathieu creates a scene so taut that it comes close to snapping, but he’s too good a writer to allow this to happen...This is a deeply felt novel, filled with characters that demand the empathy of the reader...There are no villains in the book but there is a deep sense of humanity in all its flaws. It’s easy to see why And Their Children After Them won so many awards in its native France. It’s an exceptional portrait of youth, ennui and class divide."—IRISH TIMES

“Recounting four summers in the life of a teenager, Nicolas Mathieu’s new novel, And Their Children After Them. . .is a testament to what words can do at their leanest. . .Mathieu writes with an adept omniscience, making hairpin turns into various perspectives from paragraph to paragraph. . .The jumps in chronology—two years between each section—help create a sense of the inevitability of time. Characters grow up just as we begin to know them. . .a deft work of nostalgia, well-suited for this summer season. It calls to mind those little-appreciated moments when one might brush shoulders with a stranger. The book’s most significant occurrences take place in public—at a beach, a bar, a Bastille Day celebration, a bistro where the World Cup is playing. People are smoking, music is playing. You excuse yourself to get some air, and never know who you might run into: a face from the past whom you might remember, or who might remember you.”ZYZZYVA

“This sinuous, seedy tale of disaffected youth is marvelously smart and deadpan, and William Rodarmor captures perfectly its muscular disillusionment and its odd, off-kilter beauty. This book won the 2018 Prix Goncourt, and it’s wonderful to see it in English.”—OPEN LETTERS REVIEW

“Mathieu’s Prix Goncourt–winning novel captures the restless energy of dejected teenage boys growing up in an industrial valley in the Great East region of France over four summers in the 1990s… he locates the bittersweet flavor that comes from accepting where one is from.”—ORION MAGAZINE

“…a lyrical journey through eastern France over four summers in the 1990s, as a cast of teenagers discover globalization’s deceits for themselves.”—JACOBIN MAGAZINE

“[An] extensive social saga driven by precise, sensual writing and an astonishing storytelling talent.”FRANCE-AMÉRIQUE

“[E]njoyable, sometimes addictive, occasionally ridiculous… it’s a comfort to let go, to let art transport us.”—4COLUMNS



Middle-aged and divorced, Rose has resigned herself to a circumscribed existence. Days at her administrative job are followed by nights at her local bar, the Royal, where she turns to imbibe generously and forget her poor luck in relationships. Betrayed by men one too many times, she also owns a .38 caliber handgun, should she need it for self-defense.

When Luc, a handsome yet aloof real estate developer, enters the Royal one night, the course of Rose’s life shifts irrevocably. The two are instantly attracted to each other, and swiftly move in together. Rose uproots her life to fit herself into Luc’s, but she soon realizes he’s far from a perfect match.



PHOTO CREDIT:  Bertrand-Jamot

About the author: Nicolas Mathieu was born in Épinal, France, in 1978. His first novel, Aux animaux la guerre, was published in 2014 and adapted for television by Alain Tasma in 2018. He received the Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary award, in 2018 for his second novel, And Their Children After Them (Other Press, 2020). He lives in Nancy.

About the translator: Sam Taylor is an award-winning literary translator and novelist. He has translated more than sixty books from French, including Laurent Binet’s HHhH and Leila Slimani’s The Perfect Nanny, and his four novels have been translated into ten languages. He was born in England, spent ten years in France, and now lives in the United States.


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