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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.

Over 8,000 copies sold

HISTORICAL FICTION

Isabelle Duquesnoy has composed a ​truculent and terrifying account of an embalmer in revolutionary Paris, that should shake up the novelistic autumn.  — Livres Hebdo

The Goncourt of La Griffe Noire! One of the most beautiful successful novel of the year. It’s vivid, funny, totally original, the characters are grandioses. — La Griffe Noire

A book as fascinating as bewitching. This book is a divine surprise, a breathtaking novel that slices and reveals a character so endearing that we forget that he is ugly, askew, to attack the madness. — Le Magazine Littéraire

The female authors can also write horror, scandalous and brilliant novels. That’s The Embalmer. — Culture Bouquins

A chilling truthful story. — L’Humanité

As funny as it is instructive. — Femme Actuelle

A nugget, a literary jewel, with regards to intrigue, context, and language. Only a history enthusiast could offer us such a book. — Books, moods and more, ELLE

A pure jewel, a rapture of writing, of erudition.  — Lydie Zannini, librairie du Théâtre

A novel of adventure and intrigue with lots of twists, all treated with jubilant, grinning humor and a sublime but very accessible writing. — Sandrine Dantard, FNAC Chambéry

A very nice surprise of this Rentrée Littéraire… A fantastic story, universe à la Tim Burton, with a fine and classic writing full of irony. — David Coulois, Cultura Chambray-lès-Tours

The embalmer fascinates as much as he disturbs. — Le Lièvre et la tortue

A sensory novel, close to Patrick Süskind’s The Perfume. A favorite. — Guillaume, Métropolis

A pure jewel. — Sur Radio

A treat.— Sarah Ponzo, Page et plume

Captivating and defiant.— Marie-Pierre Mazeau-Janot, Les Ruelles

The confessions of Victor Renard are exciting, odious and sometimes appalling.— Jean-Claude Dutemps, Le Forum arts et livres

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.