Daughters Beyond Command

Europa. Jan. 2023. 496p. tr. from French by Alison Anderson. ISBN 9781609457907. pap. $18. F
This novel by French playwright Olmi, her first to be translated into English, takes place in France between 1968 and 1981, focusing on three sisters growing up in Aix-en-Provence. The eldest, Sabine, longs for a life on stage in Paris; the middle sister, Hélène, summers with her wealthy aunt and uncle and is a self-proclaimed “bourgeoisie”; and the youngest, Mariette, sickly in youth, is the most innocent and naïve of the three, which is perhaps why she becomes her mother’s greatest confidante. Secrets abound in this book, which is part feminist manifesto, part coming-of-age story, and all family drama. The girls’ mother, Agnès, is tethered to her husband by her children and her sense of Catholic duty, but a chance acquaintance helps her to see that there can be so much more to her life than her family. Olmi captures the fervor and ferocity that overcame France during the years before the 1981 election that made François Mitterrand president.
VERDICT Olmi’s novel evokes deep thought: What is humane, what it means to be free, and what happens when tradition and modern thought collide. This bittersweet story of emancipation, and forgiveness will appeal to readers who have a passion for activism.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing