One of the biggest surprises in the world of books so far this year has been THE CASE OF LISANDRA P., the psychological thriller by French author Helene Grémillon, which The Washington Post says is a “fascinating… moving look at how evil can cripple nations and crush souls.”
THE CASE OF LISANDRA P. is Grémillon’s debut in American and thanks to the wonderful folks at Penguin/Random House, I have an interview with her. In addition, Penguin/Random House is giving away one copy of THE CASE OF LISANDRA P. to a lucky visitor here. Please see the end of the post for more details.
Grémillon, the internationally acclaimed author of The Confidant—winner of Monaco’s Prince Pierre Literary Prize, returns with an engrossing psychological thriller about the secrets that can tear a marriage apart. Set in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1987, THE CASE OF LISANDRA P.: A Novel (A Penguin Paperback Original; On sale: January 12, 2016; 9780143126584; $16) tells the story of a psychoanalyst accused of killing his wife, and one of his patients, Eva Maria, who resolves to clear his name. But dredging up the past comes at a cost, as Grémillon’s characters continue to grapple with the wounds inflicted by a ruthless and brutal dictatorship during the Dirty Wars.
The moment she appeared in his office, psychoanalyst Vittorio Puig fell hard for the enigmatic Lisandra. Their relationship soon became one of husband and wife rather than doctor and patient. Years later, when Lisandra is found dead at the foot of their apartment building—where Vittorio also sees his patients—the police immediately arrest him for her murder.
Convinced they have the right man, the authorities do not earnestly search for another killer. Vittorio’s patient Eva Maria, however, believes differently. She soon begins her own investigation, listening to secret recordings from Vittorio’s sessions in an attempt to ferret out suspects.
What Eva Maria finds in the tapes forces her to confront painful memories of her own daughter’s disappearance at the hands of the junta, and the harrowing reality of Argentina’s troubled past. Each of the patients’ stories—the woman repulsed by her own aging, the musician who was tortured, and the government official who may be hiding a criminal past—reveals a possible motive for Lisandra’s mysterious death. But the truth turns out to be far more sinister than anyone could have imagined.
Grémillon masterfully depicts the psyches of damaged and vulnerable individuals in this thrilling novel, which complicates notions of reality and paranoia, memory and fact. From its gripping start to its shocking end, THE CASE OF LISANDRA P. will keep readers turning pages long into the night.
Praise for THE CASE OF LISANDRA P.
“Full of truly unexpected twists and poignant turns, Grémillon’s subtly political drama reverberates long after the killer is unmasked.”— Kirkus Reviews
“A cunningly plotted tale that is by turns cerebral, suspenseful—
and ultimately shocking.”— Publishers Weekly
and ultimately shocking.”— Publishers Weekly
“Hélène Grémillon has proved herself more than ever a master of the art of the ‘page-turner.’” — Paris Match (France)
“The new Patricia Highsmith.”— est Magazine (France)
“An addictive storyline that leaves us stunned.”— Pleine Vie (France)
Now here’s a Penguin original Q&A with author Hélène Grémillon.
Hello Hélène! You are an internationally acclaimed author whose first novel is The Confidant. For American readers who are just getting to know you, what draws you to the thriller genre? What inspires you as a writer?
In writing, I’m above all interested in suspense and psychological qualities. How do human beings feel? How do human beings react? Love, hate… Their qualities, their flaws, and how much all of that is subjective. The Confidant was already based on that pattern. Jealousy was the main feeling I want to develop in The Case of Lisandra P. It carries in its wake cruelty, destructive paranoia, and sorrow for the victim but also in the person who feels jealousy. Jealousy is infernal in nature. In comparison with The Confidant, The Case of Lisandra P. is more in line with the thriller genre: Indeed, there’s a corpse! A shrink’s wife is found dead, the shrink is accused of murder, and one of his patients try to prove he is innocent, looking for the real murderer among his others patients. That is the pitch, the impulse which has driven my writing.
The Case of Lisandra P., your current novel, is set in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1987 and the book notes it is based on a true story. How did you get the idea for this book? Did you visit Buenos Aires during your research?
The Case of Lisandra P. begins with “the book is based on a true story” but it’s a kind of a “lie” … The book is not based on a true story, but this sentence won me, I was sure it was the best one to start the novel, the best tone. To put me at ease with my “lie”, my publisher told me “Hélène, the fiction can begin where the author wants…” In a way I agree and I kept it! But no mistake, I didn’t want to mislead my readers, it’s more mysterious. When I’m writing, I hesitate, I doubt, then when something sounds obvious to me I can’t deny it. Nevertheless, everything I wrote about the historical context is perfectly true, in each detail, and also the case of Miguel, one of the shrink’s patients.
At the beginning, of course, I had planned to make a trip in Argentine but the more I went on my writing, the more my ideas were definite and bright, the less I wanted to go to Buenos Aires. I was afraid to mix up everything in my mind. I just needed to stay and concentrate behind my writing desk. Then I didn’t go.
Your characters are living in the aftermath of a brutal dictatorship. Their psychological scars run deep. How did you begin to imagine these individuals?
I never went to Argentina but I did read a lot of books about the dictatorship, and I saw a lot of films. Then I invented my characters with this stuff, the real events help me to imagine a lot of situations. With my characters, the first thing I imagined was to put in the novel three plain psychoanalytic sessions, only dialogues, like three drama shows in the heart of the novel.
Your book opens with the untimely death of a beautiful young woman and goes on to explore her marriage to a psychoanalyst. What attracted you to the idea of writing about a marriage after one of the pair dies mysteriously?
My book explores Lisandra’s marriage after she died mysteriously. Love is one of my deep obsessions, this passionate feeling, alienating one, so different for everybody. It is my main source of inspiration. Jubilant and painful.
What do you like to read? Who are some of your favorite mystery/thriller authors?
I love mystery authors, they are my favorite to read. I love classics like Georges Simenon, a prolific French author, Maurice Leblanc, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, I remember even how much I loved the children’s books Alfred Hitchcock wrote, gorgeous. And I have recently read two books I found really good, Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson and The Ice Twins by S.K. Treymane. I had to stop this last one in the night because I was so afraid I had to wait for the sunrise to go on reading… The proof the thriller won!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
|Author Helene Gremillon|
Hélène Grémillon was born in France in 1977. After obtaining degrees in literature and history, she worked as a journalist at the French newspaper Le Figaro before becoming a full-time writer.
Her first novel, The Confidant, was awarded Monaco’s Prince Pierre Literary Prize.
She lives in Paris with her partner, singer and songwriter Julien Clerc, and their child.
ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR:
Alison Anderson is an American writer and translator based in Switzerland. Her translations include J. M. G. Le Clézio’s Onitsha, Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and Hélène Grémillon’s first novel, The Confidant.
This giveaway is for one print copy of THE CASE OF LISANDRA P. The giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. only and will end at 12 a.m. (EST) on Sunday, Feb. 7.
To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and following the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load so please be patient. A winner will be selected by the Rafflecopter widget and I’ll send an email with the subject line “Thoughts in Progress the Case of Lisandra P. Giveaway.” The winner will have 72 hours to reply to the email or another winner will be selected. PLEASE be sure to check your spam folder from time to time after the giveaway ends. If you win and you’ve already won the book somewhere else or you just decide for whatever reason you don’t want to win, once again PLEASE let me know.
Thanks so much for stopping by during this post. Were you familiar with Hélène’s earlier work, The Confidant? What are your thoughts on psychological thrillers? Do you enjoy reading the works of authors from other countries?