Winner of the Prix Goncourt in 1998, this book is the work of one of France's most celebrated and interesting novelists writing at the height of her powers. It is fiction that leads readers through fascinating chambers of life where autobiography is constantly reimagined.
A darkly comic novel about four women aging less-than-gracefully, Trading Secrets takes us to an academic conference in Kansas where, in an encounter between Aurore, a French woman, and her American counterpart, Gloria, the differences between their two cultures become sharply apparent. The result is a bitingly funny portrait of painfully complex, psychologically damaged individuals, all of whom have been, in some sense, "colonized." The novel also offers an incisive picture of a French posture toward things American, from race relations to feminism to academia. As Paule Constant herself has said: "C'est un livre en miroir." The book is a mirror, both in how its characters reflect one another and in what it shows us of ourselves and our world.
"Set in a mythical Kansas university town, the book centers on four participants of a feminist colloquium who share a house and their lives . . . Through extended character studies that reveal each woman's life history, Constant suggests that they may all be different aspects of an everywoman, victimized by relationships and bad choices. . . . A somber but engaging work that provides keen insight into the feminist psyche."—Library Journal
"The ambiguities of displacement and commitment are handled with real élan in this clever comic novel (its author's seventh), which won France's Prix Goncourt in 1998. It explores the interrelationships of four women who meet at a scholarly feminist conference held at Kansas college. . . . Constant's suave analyses of all four women give this engaging tale both welcome specificity and mind-teasing resonance."—Kirkus Reviews
"Constant sets this bleak, angst-filled examination of love, envy, and distrust among women in Kansas after a feminist colloquium. . . . Constant illuminates the dark side of feminism, where women pay lip service to ideals but at the same time ruthlessly manipulate one another in the name of sisterhood."—Booklist