She had been dead now for four days and I had become rich. Unimaginably rich.
Blanche de Rigny has always considered herself the black sheep of the family. And a black sheep on crutches at that. But it turns out her family tree has branches she didn’t even know existed. And many of them are rotten to the core. As Blanche learns more about the legacy left by her wealthy Parisian ancestors, she decides a little family tree pruning might be in order.
But great wealth also brings great responsibility – a form of richesse oblige, perhaps – and Blanche has a plan to use her inheritance to cure the world of its ills.
Hannelore Cayre’s last novel, The Godmother, was about an underpaid French-Arabic translator in her fifties who after being widowed finds herself embarking on a new career path in Europe’s criminal underworld. It won the European Crime Fiction Prize and the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, was featured on The New York Times’ ‘100 Notable Books of 2019’ list and has been made into a major film starring Isabelle Huppert. Both The Godmother and The Inheritors was translated from French to English by Stephanie Smee, who lives in Sydney.
Spanning two centuries, from Paris on the eve of the Franco-Prussian War to the modern day, this unforgettable family saga lays bare the persistent and poisonous injustice of inequality. Despite the vast time frame, Cayre suggests that ‘nothing had changed one iota in the last one hundred and fifty years’.
In her trademark razor-sharp style, Cayre again delivers the sardonic humour and devilish creativity that made The Godmother an international bestseller. It’s a stunning achievement for an author to produce such a relatively small book, filled with such breadth and depth. Major themes include family, ancestry, race and privilege, and disability. The whole cast of characters, from police to criminals, is colourful, unique and each one sublimely presented. Cayre’s writing is so polished, and so perfect, that she’s able to offer the reader a superbly plotted tale, with complex characters and rich, vivid imagery that fills your senses – all in a short 228 pages. And while the credit for this incredible task goes to Cayre’s talent as an author, Stephanie Smee should be applauded for her stunning translation, delivering this tale to an English-speaking audience. The translation sings – it really is such a stunning read.
The Inheritors is superb. It’s the reason I read. It’s more than just escapism, or entertainment, although it is both of those – it’s the opportunity to spend time with a master craftsman. I look forward to being immersed in Hannelore Cayre’s next novel soon.