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  • 9781908313546
Edition details


Publication date
17th February 2014


Gallic Books


Extent (number of pages)

Emily Boyce & Ros Schwartz


Worldwide : Exclusive

BIC category

US publication date
10th June 2014



The People in the Photo

(Eux sur la photo)


‘The three figures in the photograph are frozen for ever, two men and a woman bathed in sunlight.’

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‘The three figures in the photograph are frozen for ever, two men and a woman bathed in sunlight.’

Parisian archivist Hélène knows very little about her mother, Nathalie, who died when she was four. In the hope of learning more, she places a newspaper advert calling for information on Nathalie and two unknown men pictured with her at a tennis tournament in 1971.

Against the odds, she receives a response from Stéphane, a Swiss biologist: his father is one of the people in the photo.   More letters, and more photos, pass between them, in an attempt to unearth the truth their parents kept from them. But as they piece together events from the past, will they discover more than they can actually deal with?

Winner of more than 20 literary awards, this dark yet moving drama deftly explores the themes of blame and forgiveness, identity and love.

‘Genuinely affecting … a tightly-controlled, well-paced and, at times, heart-wrenching read’ The Independent
‘Enchanting … ultimately uplifting … Gestern reassures us that the pain of one generation need not carry over to the next’ The Spectator
‘This first novel has won a slew of prizes in France, and it’s easy to see why – with its clever use of a letters format (updated to include emails and texts), the expertly developed search for hidden family truths, the interweaving of the past and present and the correspondents’ friendship … This is an admirably thoughtful and sensitive work.’ Daily Mail
‘This book hasn’t won almost 20 awards for nothing – it’s an addictive read’ The Sun
‘A beguiling and compelling love story’ Sunday Times
‘An intriguing page-turner ****’ France Magazine
‘Hélène Gestern’s debut novel is a success. Breathing life back into the epistolary genre, The People in the Photo is an elegant investigation into the workings of identity and history..  4.5 stars’ The Bookbag
‘[A] beautiful debut’ Closer
‘Satisfying … prompts us to consider identity and memory, and how the two are warped through time.’ Financial Times
‘Beautifully crafted award-winning French novel’ Bella
‘I loved this novel: a clever, complex tale  with a beautiful writing style. I read it straight through on a weekend in Dublin. An excellent debut and if you’ve never read a translated novel, this would be a good one to begin with’Absolutely South East
‘Author Hélène Gestern has an amazing way with words, writing a mystery that will quickly draw you in and refuse to let go until you know what really happened to connect these two people together’ San Francisco Book Review
‘Gestern’s debut novel is a fast, satisfying read that will make readers want to open that old box of photos and look again’ Minneapolis Star Tribune
‘This well crafterd novel explores the consequences of ill-fated love with deftly wielded prose and a genuine sense of warmth’ Monsters and Critics
‘Hélène Gestern’s debut is an elegant, moving drama – and as compulsive a page-turner as I’ve read recently’ Francofille
‘Like a literary game of pass the parcel, each layer reveals another and another until finally the gift of full disclosure emerges. At turns fascinating, heartbreaking, passionate and astonishing, this one will touch your reading soul.’ Liz loves Books
‘A very rich novel … seeks to demonstrate that no matter who we are or what relationship we may have had with our parents, their lives and their history are vitally important to our present lives.’ These little words
‘The charm of its protagonists and their gripping, intermingled past offers an intriguing take on forgiving what’s done and living with those fixed celluloid ghosts.’ Jenny Messenger
‘Beautiful … captivating … real to the bone drama’ The Friendly Shelf
‘Exquisitely told … Hélène Gestern provides such beautifully vivid prose that you can almost imagine you are viewing an image rather than words on a page.’ From First Page to Last
‘A dark and achingly sad story of lost love, desperate decisions and the search for identity’ Ms Crow
‘It made me want to learn Russian! And mourn the lost art of the letter.’ Reading with Tea
‘A captivating read, intensely thought-provoking and intricately plotted’ Word by Word
‘Hélène Gestern’s beautifully constructed novel is a detective story without a detective.’ A Life in Books
‘Hélène Gestern brings the pictures in this book to life’ Winstonsdad’s Blog
‘I enjoyed the structure of the story and the intrigue of each piece of the puzzle they uncover … An emotional read’ Jera’s Jamboree
‘Gripping … a real page-turner’ A Discount Ticket to Everywhere
‘Every note of the characters’ correspondence rings true’ Le Nouvel Observateur
‘A wonderful book about the archaeology of memory’ Le Magazine Littéraire
‘Elegant, restrained and poetic’ France Inter
Bonus Material
Hélène Gestern Q&A
Hélène Gestern

Meet the author

Hélène Gestern was born in 1971. She teaches and researches in the field of linguistics at CNRS and sits on the editorial committee of a literary review dedicated to autobiographical writing. Her first novel, The People in the Photo, won more than 20 literary awards and draws upon, among other thing…

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