Marginal people scratching a living on the beach in Marseille, no money and no way out - this is the framework of Marion Brunet’s unsettling novel, Vanda. A short but sharply written book, Vanda is about a single mother, whose life has been one of free-spirited rebellion, trying to hold things together for her young son. What the novel is really about is prejudice, the secret cruelty of society and how having no money makes you an easy target. Thought-provoking fiction with a strong narrative drive, Vanda is expertly translated from the French by Katherine Gregor. Author Marion Brunet was previously recognised in France for her young adult fiction, yet Vanda and her previous adult novel, The Summer Of Reckoning, which won the prestigious French literary prize, Le Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, have taken her work to a new and eager audience.
The story takes place in the suffocating atmosphere of a social housing estate in the south of France. Sixteen-year-old Celine and her sister Jo, fifteen, dream of escaping to somewhere far from their daily routine, far from their surly, alcoholic father and uncaring mother, both struggling to make ends meet. That summer Celine falls pregnant, devastating news that reopens deep family wounds. Those of the mother Severine whose adolescence was destroyed by her early pregnancy and subsequent marriage with Manuel. Those of Manuel, grandson of Spanish immigrants, who takes refuge in alcoholism to escape the open disdain of his in-laws. Faced with Celine's refusal to name the father, Manuel needs a guilty party and Said, a childhood friend of the girls and conveniently Arab, seems to fit the role perfectly. In the suffocating heat of summer Manuel embarks on a drunken mission of revenge. A dark and upsetting account of an ailing society, filled with silent and murderous rage.