Marie NDiaye’s “Vengeance Is Mine” weaves mysteries of love, crime and memory

French Senegalese novelist, Marie NDiaye, who has won prestigious awards and garnered critical acclaim, has once again demonstrated her mastery of storytelling in her latest work, Vengeance is Mine, brilliantly translated by Jordan Stump.

According to a review by Hermione Hoby for columns org, at its core, this novel defies easy categorisation. It possesses elements of a crime thriller with suspense, mystery and intrigue, yet it also delves deep into the shifting realms of memory, fractured identity, and human connection. NDiaye’s skill lies in her ability to seamlessly blend these contrasting elements into a narrative of remarkable sophistication.

The story revolves around Susane, a 42-year-old lawyer in Bordeaux, whose life is upended when a murder case comes her way. She is a complex character, haunted by a deep yearning for her housekeeper, Sharon’s affection, which only exacerbates their social and power dynamics. This nuanced exploration of relationships, class disparities, and the desperation for love forms the heart of the novel.

Susane’s relationship with her parents adds another layer of complexity. While they are proud of her legal career, they have a distaste for the disturbing details of her cases. This tension highlights the guilt and burden of filial love, a recurring theme in NDiaye’s works.

The novel grapples with two interconnected mysteries: the murder of three children by their seemingly devoted mother and a dark incident from Susane’s past. As Susane navigates these enigmatic situations, her life becomes intertwined with Gilles Principaux, the bereaved father, who may be a long-lost figure from her own history.

Throughout the narrative, NDiaye’s language is a source of delight. Her audacious metaphors and vivid imagery create a unique reading experience, where even the most mundane aspects of life are transformed into moments of profound reflection.

Vengeance is Mine is not just a crime novel; it’s a meditation on the complexities of love, memory, and human behaviour. NDiaye’s ability to infuse ordinary lives with epic dimensions is a testament to her storytelling prowess. As readers are drawn into this intricately woven tale, they are left pondering the mysteries of the human heart, the enduring impact of the past, and the desperate yearning for connection.

Vengeance is Mine by Marie NDiaye, translated by Jordan Stump,

Knopf, 226 pages, $28


Subscribe to our Newsletter
Stay up-to-date