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Three Strong Women [Hardcover]

Marie NDiaye , John Fletcher
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
Price: 18.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

26 April 2012

Forty-year-old Norah leaves Paris, her family and her career as a lawyer to visit her father in Dakar. It is an uncomfortable reunion - she is asked to use her skills as a lawyer to get her brother out of prison - and ultimately the trip endangers her marriage and her relationship with her own daughter, and drives her to the very edge of madness.

Fanta, on the other hand, leaves Dakar to follow her husband Rudy to rural France. And it is through Rudy's bitter and guilt-ridden perspective that we see Fanta stagnate with boredom in this alien, narrow environment.

Khady is forced into exile from Senegal because of poverty, because her husband is dead, because she is lonely and in despair. With other illegal immigrants, she embarks on a journey which takes her nowhere, but from which she will never return.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: MacLehose Press (26 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857050567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857050564
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 574,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'A novel of exceptional virtuosity' Le Monde.

'A fine book, full of NDiaye's narrative gusto, stylistic virtuosity and command of tone' Michael Sheringham, Times Literary Supplement.

'NDiaye's writing is extraordinarily powerful, and she is very well served by John Fletcher's elegant, economical translation' Times on Saturday.

'At times the language has a hypnotic emotional intensity ... The novel has a passion, daring and individuality that makes it stand out' Independent.

'The prose compels with its astonishing range and precision' Guardian.

'John Fletcher's fine translation of this compelling novel conveys admirably NDiaye's needle-sharp prose and introduces a distinctive voice to Anglophone readers' Times Literary Supplement.

'Three Strong Women is the poised creation of a novelist unafraid to explore the extremes of human suffering' New York Times Book Review.

'The Prix Goncourt has not had such a compelling winner for a long time' Felicitas von Lovenberg, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

'NDiaye is without question one of the most interesting and innovative contemporary novelists' Ina Hartwig, Süddeutsche Zeitung.

From the Inside Flap

Three women face a journey that will change their lives forever. Three women who almost have it all: Norah thinks she has made it when she qualifies as a lawyer in Paris; Fanta works her way into a prestigious teaching job in her home city; Khady runs a café with her loving husband - now all she wants is a child. But family ties, broken or reasserted, will force each woman to face a journey from France to Africa or from Africa to France that will take the future out of their hands and change their lives forever. Domineering fathers, weak lovers, racist bureaucracies, the perilous road of the refugee - they will need all their courage and inner strength if they are to overcome. Winner of the Prix Goncourt, France's most prestigious literary prize, Three Strong Women is a novel of pure impact, full of sharp psychological insight and subtle, hallucinatory twists of the mind.

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strong women, indeed. 29 April 2012
By Nick
This is the story of three strong women, Norah, Fanta and Khady, whose lives are interconnected.
We meet Norah first. Long ago, her African father abandoned his French wife and daughters to return to Africa, taking his only son with him. Norah, now a trained lawyer, works in Paris. A single mother, she has been living for a while with Jakob and his daughter. Norah is not particularly happy: she finds life with Jakob very trying. Then she receives a summons from her father; he begs her to drop everything and travel to Africa. When she learns the truth about what has been going on in her father's house throughout the long years during which he kept his French family at arm's length, Norah needs all the strength she can muster to deal with the issue.
In the second story, Fanta, a young African woman, is launched on a promising career as a teacher in the country's top lycée. There she meets and marries a French colleague, Rudy, and they have a son. But their happiness is short-lived. For reasons that gradually become clear, Rudy is dismissed from his post and the couple are forced to relocate to the small town in France where Rudy's widowed mother lives. Having failed to get a teaching post in France, Fanta finds her marriage starting to disintegrate. Then one day, as he leaves for work, Rudy is forced to confront his past. Part Two ends with him collecting his son from school, determined to try and make Fanta happy again.
In Part Three, Khady - who had once worked as a cook and nanny for Norah's father - is desperate for a child of her own. But her husband dies suddenly and she is forced to move in with her in-laws.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Marie NDiaye's "Three Strong Women" won the 2009 Prix Goncourt. This English translation is by John Fletcher who produces some rather stilted, wordy sentences, but I gather that the author is known for this and her convoluted symbolism. The first story took time to get going and, just when I was feeling comfortable about the main characters, it ended. In general, the language was an intrusive barrier that prevented me caring as much as I should have about the characters.

The book comprises three loosely-linked novellas. In the first, we meet Norah, a lawyer in her late 30s, who has been raised with her sister in France by her single-parent mother after her businessman father takes their 5-year old brother, Sony, to Senegal. After years of silence, her father has asked her to visit him and, rather surprisingly, she leaves her Paris home, her young daughter and her partner, Jakob, and his daughter to visit him in Dakar. The father, who became very rich through a Senegalese holiday village, Dar Salam, bullied his children and his their mother unmercifully but now Norah finds him disheveled, in severe financial difficulties and supported by just two servants, his chauffeur and odd job man, Massek, and the nursemaid, Khady Demba, who looks after the his young daughters from a later marriage. Norah finds out that Sony is in prison accused of murder and her father wants her to represent him. Norah, frustrated by the behavior of Jakob and seeing little hope for their relationship, agrees to her father's request.

In the second part, our narrator is middle-aged Rudy Descas, a salesman of customised kitchens, who lives in provincial France with Fanta, his Senegalese wife, and their son.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy print 18 Oct 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
purchsed for my reading group. The structure of the book was less than satisfactory diffuclt to judge how well it was trasnlated. Print was very easy to read.
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1.0 out of 5 stars 3 strong women 25 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I did not find this at all interesting. The first story started off well but then deteriorated, till I had completely lost interest by the end. I started the third but gave up after a few pages ,as it was going the same way. I didn't bother to find out if the stories had a link.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Or 3 weak men? 8 July 2013
By bruyere
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Not entirely convinced by the 'strong' women, but it was well written (which came through the translation luckily), and there was a very good feeling for Africa and African women, both in exile and at home.
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