Fantagraphics. Oct. 2020. 100p. ISBN 9781683963684. $19.99. Rated: Teen+. historical/crime fiction
After being ejected from a convent, Lea Papin goes to work alongside her sister Christine as a live-in maid for the wealthy Lancelin family in Le Mans, France. Despite long hours, tedious work, and the casual cruelty or open disdain with which Madame Lancelin and her daughter Genevieve treat them, the sisters are still thrilled to be reunited and experience a sense of liberation at being free from their abusive mother, with an income all their own. As tensions within the Lancelin family escalate, the Papin sisters are increasingly mistreated. Rebellious Christine makes a game of lashing out through minor acts of subversion and encourages her sister to follow her lead, which she does with a zeal that betrays the rage and darkness behind her seemingly timid demeanor. When Madame Lancelin finally threatens to fire them both, the stage is set for the gruesome finale of this true crime story that rocked France in the early 1930s.
VERDICT Skelly (The Agency) reveals the horror of the Papin sisters’ crimes on the very first page of this tense gem, but her perceptive examination of the complex bond between Catherine and Lea evokes incredible sympathy for the two nonetheless.
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