Before the Summer

Original title: Avant l’été

Author: Gallay, Claudie

Publication Date:

May 2021



Original language and publisher

French | Actes Sud

Territories Handled

Netherlands, North America, Scandinavia


Literary Fiction

Before the Summer

Original title: Avant l’été

Author: Gallay, Claudie


Jessica has known them forever: Juliette, Camille, Boucle d’Or and Broussaille. They are united like the five fingers of a hand, they love each other through thick and thin, they are 23 years old, and they have their whole lives ahead of them. And it is the also 1980s and insouciance is the order of the day. Juliette is the prettiest, though she’s a little capricious, pretentious and flirty, and is convinced that great things lie in store for her. Camille works on the till at the local convenience store and is saving for her big project: to do up a van and become a travelling beautician. Boucle d’Or is already a married mother and is the most level-headed and settled of the five. Broussaille the curvaceous redhead works at the local bakery. She adores boys and they adore her back, and she has a tendency to fall in love at the drop of a hat. 

Jessica loves her friends and her small town but is determined not to have to take over her parents’ modest hotel one day – she wants something else in life, but what exactly? While she tries to figure that out, she confides her dreams to her best friend Juliette: one day they’ll get out of this little backwater and share some amazing adventures together. 

For the spring festival in the last weekend of March, the town holds a talent competition and the five young women set themselves the challenge of putting on a fashion show. For this, they have to scour the second-hand clothes shops, design and sew their outfits, and above all work up the courage to go on stage and fearlessly strut their stuff in the spotlight with a model’s sway of the hips. 

Even contemplating such a bold undertaking already brings about a change in them, and none of them will quite be the same again after this experience. Least of all Jess, who is ready to spread her wings under the influence of Mrs Barnes, for whom she works. The old lady has faith in her and takes her under her wing, introducing her to art, fine wines and films, thereby opening doors to a much wider world. In the space of a few months, without quite realising it, Jess is ready to fly the nest, albeit at the risk of losing a friend and giving up the things that she holds dear. She is ready to dare to be herself and strike out on her own. 

A refreshing, joyous and fast-paced novel about metamorphosis and the promise of the future.