The inheritors by Hannelore Cayre. Translated by Stephanie Smee

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Revenge is a dish best served cold in this story set in France in two different eras, that of 1870 and the modern day.  Following on from her earlier book, The Godmother, Hannelore Cayre again introduces us to a strong female character who is definitely out of the mainstream . . .  Blanche de Rigny is a difficult and prickly person - disabled, furious with the world she sees around her, and fiercely loyal to those closest to her.  She refuses to settle with the expectations that the world has of her, instead using the few means at her disposal to take it on. 

The author juxtaposes 21st century Paris and Brittany with their social issues and criminal underworld against that of the 19th century and the backdrop of the Franco-Prussian War and Paris Commune to comment on the cycle of power and inequity.  She explores the family relationships of the main characters and their outsider status within their own social milieus focussing on the contrasts of idealism and pragmatism and the impact on both character's self-esteem and estimation in their families and wider communities.

The book also contains a strong thread of feminism in a modern and an historical context.  It suffers at times from an awkwardness of language (which may be a result of translation) and unevenness of pace but this does not impede the storyline. 

Recommended for both an observation of French politics, society and culture, as well as a wider global view, and as a book with a strong female protagonist.

Gaye Howe