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The Embalmer, or the Despicable Confession of Victor Renard (L’Embaumeur: ou l’odieuse confession de Victor Renard)

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Original Language: French | 528 pp. | August 2017

2 Seas Represents: World excl French Rights.

HISTORICAL FICTION

After the revelation of The Confessions of Constanze Mozart (Plon, 2003) and seven years’ work, Isabelle Duquesnoy returns with a new literary and historical treasure. Rabelaisian grotesque mixed with the obsessive, morbid power of Sükskind’s Perfume and the freedom of Jean Teulé.

There is something of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, the unforgettable character of Süskind’s Perfume, about Victor Renard, the hero of this novel:

An unsightly appearance;
A terrible childhood, with a loveless mother and a life of grime;
A morbid and obsessive passion that will propel him, like Grenouille, to the most terrible of deeds…

To escape his mother (a ‘Folcoche’ of the slums), and buy the affection of the beautiful and brazen Angélique, Victor will learn an unusual trade: embalming, alongside master Joulia. A tale of love and death that unfolds in Rabelaisian scenes, with the abominable juxtaposed with jubilation.

A novel of excess in which the grotesque, refinement and macabre humour are combined to create sparkling writing that is extremely powerful.

Strong Points

  • By the author of The Confessions of Constanze Mozart: 11 000 copies. GFK (Plon, 2003).
  • An elegant novel that is never rendered lifeless by the ample historical detail, with an undercurrent of suspense.
  • Between the obsessive and morbid power of Patrick Süskind’s Perfume, Rabelaisian grotesque and the freedom of a Jean Teulé: a new literary gem.
  • Book entered in various French literary prizes this Fall (Goncourt, Femina, Médicis, etc.).

Isabelle Duquesnoy, 56, is an art restorer working between Basse-Normandie and Corsica. She writes every day and rereads her dialogues aloud, with her parrot sitting on her shoulder and litres of warm red tea on hand. She made a name for herself as an author with her first novel, The Confessions of Constanze Mozart. Her new book, The Embalmer, is the result of seven years’ work.