Original title: S’en aller
Cutting Loose is the story of a woman’s emancipation in the first part of the twentieth century. From the North Sea to the island of Java, and her experiences in the French Resistance to her final days as an elderly woman, each of the episodes in Carmen’s life mark milestones on the path to freedom.
Shortly after the First World War, Carmen enlists as a sailor on a fishing boat to escape the prim and proper existence of a bourgeois adolescence. In order to practice a profession reserved for men, she has to dress like them, adopt their habits and hide her identity. She doesn’t yet realise that this is only the first of many departures during which physical experiences will go hand in hand with a growing political awareness. Later on, dancing will reveal a further dimension of the world to her when she meets her luminous twin soul Hélène, who will be become her companion and inseparable friend until everything is turned upside down by the terrible currents of history.
Cutting loose is not merely a question of slipping one’s moorings but above all of finding one’s own desired path instead of letting others decide in one’s place. The incisive prose of Sophie d’Aubreby excels at conveying the sensations that guide Carmen in her quest, her sentences like deft Impressionist brushstrokes that give body and form to the narrative. A coming-of-age novel and an ode to friendship, Cutting Loose draws subtle parallels between the contemporary struggles of women today and the battles of their forebears. With friendship as her eternal compass and freedom as her point on the horizon, Carmen is one of their number.