Synopses & Reviews
When Tiffany Muranos parents, French expatriates in Africa, send her to a Catholic boarding school in France, her homeland feels nothing like home. In leaving colonial Africa, she loses the natural world, the people, and the animals she knows and loves. Behind the walls of the Convent of the Slaughterhouse Ladies, Tiffany, whom readers met in Paule Constants award-winning first novel, Ouregano
, leads a life cut off from the world, a life of immutable and ironically secular ritual. She finds solace only in visits to her grandmothers nearby farm, which becomes a sanctuary, paradisial in its isolation. But it is only a matter of time before this magical world is threatened.
Based loosely on Constants own experiences, Private Property is at once deeply moving and intellectually exacting, an exploration of identity, home, and the tenuous relationship between mothers and daughters.
"In the slow-moving second novel in Constant's 'Tiffany Trilogy' (after Ouregano), nine-year-old Tiffany Murano sent by her parents from her African home to a Catholic boarding school in France suffers through her displacement and reprieves during holidays with her aging grandparents. Set at the beginning of colonial independence, Tiffany is obsessively attached to the ailing grandmother who lives at the private property of the title, a country estate that provides the beauty missing in the child's life. Frightened by the school's nuns, her grandmother's decline proves excruciating for Tiffany. A sense of otherness resounds: 'The world in which Tiffany was attempting to live was hermetically sealed, without the slightest opening through which one might slip to get on the already moving train.' As several years pass, the more assured, but no less angst-ridden, child becomes resentful, risking her standing at the school and barely coping with her relative's death. Despite the meticulous translation and vivid prose, the novel offers scant joy in this dismal journey through the heroine's fears and grief. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“This translation carefully preserves the style of Constants breathtakingly beautiful prose. . . . By sensitively tracing for English readers the hauntingly painful and isolated world of Tiffany . . . Miller and Grenaudier-Klijn have made Private Property a must read.”—Eileen M. Angelini, author of Strategies of “Writing the Self” in the French Modern Novel: Cest moi, je crois Ruth Huizenga Everhart - Englewood Review of Books
"Small of scale does not mean small of consequence. That goes for the diminutive Tiffany as well as Private Property itself. Those moments that look so tiny, those school humiliations and emotional kicks at home, continue to shape us into adulthood. Constant's portrait of a little girl lost, someone who would be happier to camouflage herself in the furniture than to take the spotlight, will loom large in the mind."—Jessa Crispin, NPR Books Jessa Crispin
"Paule Constant writes beautiful prose. She does not waste words. She can make a small moment loom as large as it does in real experience. She is at her best in crafting memorable images with a single sentence. This is the kind of book best savored rather than gulped."—Ruth Huizenga Everhart, Englewood Review of Books Reba Leiding - Library Journal
"Immersed in the sights and sounds of its gardens, farm animals, local peasants, and provincial surroundings, readers will feel as if they've taken a heady trip to France."—Reba Leiding, Library Journal NPR Books
About the Author
Paule Constant teaches French literature at the University of Aix-Marseilles and is the author of several novels, including Trading Secrets, winner of the Prix Goncourt; White Spirit; and The Governors Daughter, all available in Bison Books editions. Margot Miller is the translator of Constants Ouregano and the author of In Search of Shelter: Subjectivity and Spaces of Loss in the Fiction of Paule Constant. France Grenaudier-Klijn is an academic and literary translator and works as a senior lecturer in French at Massey University in New Zealand. Claudine Fisher is the director of Canadian studies at Portland State University.