‘Go out into the street and the first person you see will be the subject of your next book.’
This is the challenge a struggling Parisian writer sets himself, imagining his next heroine might be the mysterious young woman who often stands smoking near his apartment … instead it’s octogenarian Madeleine. She’s happy to become the subject of his book – but first she needs to put away her shopping.
Is it really true, the writer wonders, that every life is the stuff of novels, or is his story doomed to be hopelessly banal? As he gets to know Madeleine and her family, he’ll be privy to their secrets: lost loves, marital problems and workplace worries. And he’ll soon realise he is not the impartial bystander he intended to be, but a catalyst for major changes in the lives of his characters.
Told with Foenkinos’s characteristic irony and self-deprecating humour, yet filled with warmth, The Martins is a compelling tale of the family next door which raises questions about what it means to be ‘ordinary’, and about the blurred lines between truth and fiction.
‘A charming, clever book’ The Independent
‘This witty work of autofiction proves you don’t always need a plot’ Washington Independent Review of Books
‘By entering the fabric of an everyday French family, he tells a story of life as it really is, with its minor dramas and major sorrows’ Le Figaro Littéraire
‘Clever, well-written, and brilliantly rises to the impossible challenge the author set himself: telling the story of uneventful lives … Perhaps the most “Foenkinosien” novel of a unique writer who swims against the current of French literary trends. His style, whilst melancholic, is insuppressibly optimistic. If you had to file him in a manual of literary history, you might class him alongside the writers of the eighteenth century, but with the playfulness of Tintin’ L’Obs
‘It’s hard to resist getting caught up in the (literary) game when the experiment turns into one of the warm-hearted, wickedly funny comedies the Delicacy author is so good at … A talented author who … has always known how to reinvent himself’ Le Figaro
‘The book’s success lies in its comic reversal of roles: it’s the characters who lead the author around by the nose … David Foenkinos is at his best in this playful novel’ Elle
‘There’s a message to be taken from Foenkinos’s trademark lovely, clever comedy – which is, of course, a fiction from start to finish: the writer is never a neutral observer’ Le Journal du Dimanche
‘A wonderful surprise – light, fizzy, at once uplifting and melancholic and, above all, filled with twists, role reversals and self-deprecation. The Delicacy author’s trademark is well and truly stamped on this book: a serious author who doesn’t take himself seriously … With the lightest of touches, the author takes us behind the scenes of literary creation, and into the eternal nebula of human relationships’ L’Express
‘Playing with the rules of autofiction and family comedy, Foenkinos has created a multi-layered novel’ Le Parisien
Sam Taylor is the author of The Republic of Trees (2005), The Amnesiac (2007), The Island at the End of the World (2009), The Ground is Burning (2011), all published by Faber and Faber in the UK. Sam’s translations include award winning HHhH (2012), The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair (2014) and The Heart (2017). He lives in Texarkana, Texas with his family.