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Corning - Southeast Steuben County Library 1 FIC DE Adult Paperback Fiction Book

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Three generations of women untangle a complex family history that spans both world wars and reveals unexpected insights about marriage and fidelity.

Christiane, eighty-six years old with a vibrant sense of humor, lives alone in a large apartment in the heart of Paris. Her daughter, Catherine, could not be more different; sullen and uptight, she resents her unfaithful Milanese husband. After discovering yet another affair, Catherine takes refuge in Paris at her mother's home, accompanied by her own daughter, Luna. Christiane, who in spite of occasional dalliances lived a beautiful love story with her late husband, uses all of her freethinking charm to try to wean Catherine of her rigid self-pity.

While listening to her mother and grandmother, Luna becomes increasingly curious about Christiane's aristocratic Catholic background, prompting Christiane to tell the story of her father's war experiences and the devastating love affair that brought chaos to the whole family. As memories resurface, the present takes on a different dimension.

With a keen, lighthearted wit, The Devil's Reward shows that life may be complicated and often painful, but if conventional morals prevail, it becomes unbearable.

Author Notes

Emmanuelle de Villepin was born in France in 1959. As a child, she moved to Geneva (where she later attended law school) and then to New York. She has lived in Milan with her husband and three daughters since 1988. She is the vice-president of Fondazione Dynamo and has been president of the association Amici di TOG (Together to Go), a center for rehabilitation programs for children suffering from complex neurological diseases, since 2011. De Villepin has written several novels, inlcuding Tempo di fuga (2006); La ragazza che non voleva morire (2008), which received the Fenice Europa Prize for spreading Italian novels in Europe; La notte di Mattia (2010), a tale illustrated by her daughter Neige De Benedetti; and La vita che scorre (2013), which received the Rapallo Carige Prize for women writers in 2014. Her most recent novel, La parte del diavolo (2016), was shortlisted for the Stresa Prize. De Villepin is fluent in French, Italian, and English.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Christiane, an energetic widow, is secretly ecstatic when her daughter's marital troubles force her to seek solace at chez Christiane. As soon as they're together, though, Christiane and Catherine fall into old patterns, snipping at one another over their vastly different outlooks on life. While Catherine sees marriage as an ironclad contract, Christiane believes that a certain fluidity within a marriage can revive it. They share, however, a deep love for Catherine's daughter, Luna, who's writing a paper on the philosopher Rudolf Steiner, with whom Christiane's family had a history. In retelling this story and the ways it shaped her, Christiane begins to bridge the chasm between herself and her daughter. French-Italian novelist De Villepin's intimate family portrait, her first book to be translated into English, gracefully highlights the ways people of widely varying temperaments learn to coexist. Though at times the dialogue feels a bit pedantic in its philosophical discussions, The Devil's Reward also features gratifyingly in-depth character studies and a strong sense of place.--Shaw, Stacy Copyright 2018 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

De Villepin's flawed English-language debut begins when 86-year-old Christiane, widowed and living alone in Paris, receives a distraught call from her daughter, Catherine, in Milan. Catherine confesses to her mother that her husband is having yet another affair. Christiane, slightly amused at her daughter's histrionics, invites Catherine and her daughter Luna to come to Paris, delighted at the prospect of their company in her lonely house. When Luna reveals that she is writing a thesis on Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, Christiane claims to know all about him. Though Catherine expresses skepticism about the veracity of her mother's memories, the older woman launches in and out of a lively, possibly unreliable, story of her father, Papyrus, his brothers, her elegant Aunt Bette, and their involvement with Steiner over the course of the two world wars. There is much discussion of Steiner's idiosyncratic philosophies, but the strength and charm of this author's story-of bonding and healing among three generations of women reveling in their shared history-is obscured by an overwrought translation: "my mother held a handkerchief over her face to prevent any grains of dust from fouling her mouth, which was about to receive the body of Christ. Since we were still laughing, she complained and ordered us to close our mouths with the aim of a similar Christian hygiene." Though the premise is intriguing, the prose keeps readers at arm's length. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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