The Godmother by Hannelore Cayre is translated from the French winner of the European Crime Fiction Prize and the Grand Prix de Literature Policiere and about to become a film – La Daronne. Grand credentials and already on my bookshelf to read when it was picked by my book club. I love it when that happens as I don’t believe I have enough hours left in my life to read everything on my bookshelf that I want to read.
It was a crime book unlike any other crime book I have read. No murders – at least none that needed solving, no finding who the bad guy is as we know who the bad guy is from the beginning. Rather it displays life as it happens for some people in Paris and the tension is there as to whether the criminal will be caught and if so who will they be caught by.
The Godmother had a peculiar upbringing born to a Jewish mother and a Tunisian father. ” My fraudster parents had a visceral love of money. They loved it, not like you love an inert object stashed away in a suitcase or held in some account. No. They loved it like a living, intelligent being that can create and kill, that is endowed with the capacity to reproduce.”
Cayre painted a picture of Patience (the Godmother) by having us understand her slightly shady background, the fact that she is on the spectrum suffering bimodal synaesthesia and the child she was and then taking us to the present day where she presents as a 53 year old widow. The character is narrated by herself but in a way that the character is well drawn. We learn that she works as a translator for the police of intercepted messages in arabic, that she has a close friend in the police and that her mother is in a nursing home. And French nursing homes are no better than any nursing homes with the additional burden of sending their next of kin broke. This all makes for a crime with a difference.
The writing is good. I loved the description of her husband’s death. ” When I saw him fall head first into his plate of salad I felt an indescribable pain. As if an apple-corer had plunged straight into the centre of my body and extracted my spirit whole.” It compelled you to read to the end, almost unable to put it down.
My book club loved it. We score our books from 1 to 10 and everyone apart from me gave it either 8 or 9. I gave it a 7 for no reason other than I didn’t fully believe the story mainly because of her personal situation. I was told that it was because I didn’t have a criminal mentality. Everyone else thought it was totally feasible.
Would I recommend this book: Yes I would. The writing is compelling, the story different and I would love to know if you think it would happen.