The Governesses

The Governesses


(Les fugitives, 2019)

Translated by Mark Hutchinson

« It’s obvious there’s a secret in their past. Nothing out of the ordinary perhaps, but something that has moulded their character and shaped the way they move, the sound of their voices, their dreams, their habit of roaming around the garden with their hands pressed to their temples. The presence of that secret somewhere between the heart and the womb could also be said to have deprived them of free will, but then who can be said to possess free will ? The governesses are like those clockwork toys that start walking when you wind a key in their back ».

« A rollicking, not-suitable-for-work fable about three young governesses not particularly well suited to work. In the course of just over a hundred pages, Anne Serre takes on one of the mainstays of Victorian literature : the eroticized tabula rasa of the young governess who hovers, slim-waisted and beholden, somewhere between the world of her wards and that of her employer. The operation Serre performs on this figure is far more complex, and far more satisfying, than a simple inversion of gendered power dynamics: in Hutchinson’s taut English, the text quivers with a delectable, subtle tension from start to finish. (…) I devoured this one in a single sitting and was immediately seized by the urge to start in on it all over again ».


« In The Governesses, Eléonore and Laura capture a male passerby (…) Albeit with more warmth, the scene recalls the chilling, somewhat theatrical erotic descriptions of Pierre Klossowski, to mention only one contemporary representative of the kind of French writing going back to the Marquis de Sade and, more generally, the eighteenth-century psychological novel ». 

John Taylor, TLS.

« Serre’s language is tight and fabulist, a slim and sensuous fairy tale that reads like something born from an orgy between Charles Perrault, Shirley Jackson, and Angela Carter ».

Lauren Friedlander, Full-Stop