Nous n’étions pas des tendres

Author: Gracia, Sylvie

Publication Date:

March 2024



Original language and publisher

French | L’Iconoclaste

Territories Handled

Netherlands, North America, Scandinavia


Literary Fiction

Nous n’étions pas des tendres

Author: Gracia, Sylvie


We hadn’t seen each other for twenty-eight years. I had counted down the years in the night, twenty-eight years before he reappeared in front of his herbal tea stand. All that time during which I’d built a life for myself, like the good mason I was. I’d built a family, even if it eventually dissolved. I gave birth twice. I’d settled in Paris and made a career for myself, even though nothing in my social or geographical background had destined me for it, and without forcing anything, surprisingly, except lucidity. I had learned polite formulas and how to use cutlery at the table, adopted the codes of casual elegance and rounded out my manners. All I’d kept was my accent, the harsh, rocky soil of this region, and my small, stocky peasant body, whose ample curves had been the key to survival for millennia, enabling me to withstand the work of the fields and the home, feed my offspring and satisfy my fellow man. And what had he been through?

Some books manage to capture turning points in life, periods of transition that we dread, that we try to put off until later, as long as possible, until they inevitably come crashing down on us, with lightning-fast violence. Nous n’étions pas des tendres is such a book. Sylvie Gracia depicts sensations up close: beauty, ugliness, sadness, bursts of pleasure, the chaos of existence as we blindly and tenaciously go through it. — Miriam Bridenne

In this intimate novel, the narrator tells us about one summer in her life, when everything is unraveling. Her father is going to die and her childhood home is going to be sold. This woman returns home and lets herself be surprised by love.

One last summer in the countryside
For one summer, Hélène returns to take care of her father. Every year, an invisible leash takes her back to the countryside, like a dog to its kennel. However, she made her life far from this lost corner of the South-West which gave her her singing accent. Hélène has built another life in Paris, a successful one as they say. But in the lake house, she becomes an obedient little girl again. Nothing has changed in the village, neither the people, nor this gravity that sticks to your skin. Hélène is not fooled by anything or anyone. It’s a trademark of hers. However, this summer, everything is unraveling. Her brother wants to sell the house; her father is dying. On the market, her gaze meets her former lover’s. They find each other again. And this autumn love has a taste of freedom for both of them.

Sylvie Gracia has retained from her childhood a carnal connection with nature, which she displays in harsh and sensual descriptions. In this novel with autobiographical sensitivity, she describes this end of the world (a lake, a village, mountains) and its inhabitants from the inside. Her heroine’s outlook is scalpel-like, no doubt because she is always out of step: the only girl in a macho family, the child of a Spanish immigrant in a village of Aveyron, a woman with a Southern accent who works in Paris in a bourgeois environment. This lucidity brings sentences of great beauty, which emerge like sparks.

Marketing Information

  • A novel with universal themes: young love, family conflicts, aging parents, the loss of the family home
  • A text that evokes the status of the defector in the manner of Annie Ernaux
  • A portrait of a mature woman, in the vein of Deborah Levy’s stories
  • Miriam Bridenne’s review in English on the Albertine website