Valérie Saubade’s Happy Birthday, Grand-Mère

Out of three books I rented out from Hamburg’s Main Library last week, two turned out to be dissapointing, to the point that I did not finish reading them. However, I will not slaughter those books for two reasons. First, I do not like to talk about things I do not like and second, I did not read them, so  this article would not go much further than what I have written thus far.


What is this book about then? Nothing revolutionary. Relationships between an eighty-year-old woman and her acquaintances, friends and family. The catch sentence at the back of the cover states that that very same woman intends to murder her daughter, who makes her life unbearable.A good idea if this was a whodunnit, however it is by no means one. We spend over 200 pages looking at a woman stuck in a wheelchair’s world, hopelessly depending on the people looking after her.


On top of a very thorough and sharp analysis of human nature and relationship, Saubade writes in a very witty and entertaining style. It’s fluid, funny, captivating. Interestingly enough, the whole novel is narrated by the Grandmother, which would, at first glance, put the reader in a subjective perspective. And it does, the reader cannot help for the first twenty odd pages to feel like the evil daughter is traumatising her innocent mother. Yet, the old woman’s temper soon appears between the lines to be less than perfect.

The book is a real prowess in writing, with fantasitcally well-chosen words and an in-depth depiction of the mother-daughter relationship. I would strongly advise you, dear reader, to read it.


About John Barré

English & German into French translator. Interested in languages, literature, video games, localisation & translation - among many other topics.
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