Published by Peirene Press
Publication date – 27 May 2016
Source – review copy
Translated by Adriana Hunter
“A taut and subtle family drama from France.
A little girl lives happily with her mother in war-torn Paris. She has never met her father, a prisoner of war in Germany. But then he returns and her mother switches her devotion to her husband. The girl realizes that she must win over her father to recover her position in the family. She confides a secret that will change their lives.”
My thanks to the publisher for my copy of Her Father’s Daughter. The following review is my honest opinion of the book.
A girl and her mother, happy alone together in their small Paris apartment. Things however are about to change. The father she has never met is to return home after years being held as a prisoner of war. The girl is worried as to how she will interact with this stranger and is not happy to have to share her mother. In an attempt to bond with him she shares a secret, one which will change the course of their lives.
Given the name France by a patriotic father before she was born, but referred to throughout as ‘the girl’ the main protagonist is a four year old girl. Allowed to do pretty much as she pleases by an indulgent mother she struggles to comprehend the idea of a father, other than outside the fairy tales she knows. This strange man brings with him different smells and sounds, alters the atmosphere of the home and puts an end to her being able to behave as she wishes.
However it is the mother towards whom the child focuses her resentment. Her mother changes, is less affectionate with the child, more biddable and attentive to the father. She accepts his mood swings and sometimes violent actions and the girl cannot forgive her for this.
Conversely the girl becomes more eager to receive the attention of the father, happy to simply be in his presence but eager to contribute to their relationship. And so she asks about her secret, little realising the ramifications.
The resulting fallout leads to a different relationship with her father than she had perhaps expected but it is one that works for them.
Her Father’s Daughter is the second book in the Fairy Tale series to be published by Peirene and having read the book it is easy to see why it falls under this series. There is a fairy tale like quality to the story. Perhaps this is due to the lack of names given to characters, lending both a distance and a peculiar closeness to the tale. There are also of course the direct reference to fairy tales in the story, the ideal nuclear family in Goldilicks and the Three Bears, or referenced in the advertisements the girl sees dotted around the city.
There is also another parrallel to fairy tales in that the story contains morals, some more obvious and long running, others more fleeting. Concepts such as being careful what you wish for, of the trouble with being deceitful and what can happen as a result are both dealt with. As is the fact that we shouldn’t take anything for granted and to appreciate what we have, and who we have, whilst we can.
As with all of Peirene books this is a short novella, only 150 pages but those pages contain a well told, enveloping story with an undercurrent of tension, one which I think is more effective because of its brevity.
The translation is beautifully done, as I have come to expect from this publisher. It feels as if the magic and essence of the author’s original tale has been retained . If when reading a story you forget that you are reading translated fiction then I think the translator has done their job well. That is the case here.
Moving, engaging and thought-provoking. A beautiful addition to the Peirene family.