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And Their Children After Them Reviews

And Their Children After Them by Nicolas Mathieu

And Their Children After Them

Nicolas Mathieu

4.00 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Sceptre
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: 2 Apr 2020
ISBN: 9781529303827

The voice of a generation: an immersive, nostalgic novel recalling the long, sultry summers of the 1990s from a hot new talent and the winner of the Goncourt Prize

4 stars out of 5
23 Jun 2020

"a masterly, far-reaching exploration of a de-industrialized country"

Mathieu’s writing is deeply concerned with physical appearance. While Anthony is haunted by a droopy eye, the women in particular bear the brunt of the human gaze. We are told a woman’s body is a passport to a better world; Anthony’s mother revels in having once had “the best arse in Heillange. It was a power you were given by luck and couldn’t refuse”. Mathieu’s female characters are haunted by seasonal diets and cellulite like “orange peel”. The fleeting cameo of a social worker is defined by the “alarming proportions” of her thighs.

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
John Boyne
18 May 2020

"Mathieu builds the lives of these bored youngsters with such attention and authenticity that the reader truly cares about them"

This is a deeply felt novel, filled with characters that demand the empathy of the reader. It’s not always easy; they can be selfish and too quick to anger. Their actions cause trouble for everyone around them, while they often slip away, waiting for the mess they’ve created to die down. But Mathieu understands this environment and is sympathetic to their struggles. 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.

4 stars out of 5
Boyd Tonkin
17 Apr 2020

"Nicolas Mathieu’s Goncourt winner is a lament for a French underclass left forgotten post-deindustrialisation"

If these overlapping layers of cause-and-effect recall the naturalism of Émile Zola, then something in the half-lyrical, half-prophetic tone reminded me of DH Lawrence — who conjured another beloved, change-shaken heartland in The Rainbow. Then again, you might think of a Ken Loach movie with a soundtrack by Bruce Springsteen; especially as William Rodarmor’s salty and supple translation lends to Anthony and his pals the smartass, vulnerable voices of American, not British, rust-belt teens. 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”.