Love Me Tender by Constance Debré, translated by Holly James
Constance Debré’s third novel details the struggles of a woman in 2015 Paris who has abandoned her former life to start a new one. Criminal defense attorney Constance, 47, daughter of an aristocratic mother who died when she was a girl, and a recovering addict father with cardiopulmonary disease, leaves her family and career to write novels, live lean, and go to bed with women. Her chosen path presents a challenge, when her dates seek more than a fling and threaten her independence; and her rejection of the past catches up with her when her ex-husband cancels visits with their son, who refuses to see his mother. She has made her decision, and lives with the consequences: sexuality pervades this world between worlds, not as a lifestyle or identity, but as the core of a person’s being. At last Constance brings about a rapprochement with her child, and the story ends on a hopeful note. Debré’s scope is her style, with its lack of self-pity; and her terse, opaque sentences—rendered into English by translator Holly James—hazard statements like “There is no such thing as a mother” as gestures to glide across the depths.