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Three Strong Women

3.19 of 5 stars 3.19  ·  rating details  ·  1,157 ratings  ·  204 reviews
In this new novel, the first by a black woman ever to win the coveted Prix Goncourt, Marie NDiaye creates a luminous narrative triptych as harrowing as it is beautiful.

This is the story of three women who say no: Norah, a French-born lawyer who finds herself in Senegal, summoned by her estranged, tyrannical father to save another victim of his paternity; Fanta, who leaves
Hardcover, 293 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Knopf (first published 2009)
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How does the fact that others are doing well diminish you?
Out of all the Prix Goncourt-winning books I've read, this one has the lowest rating on Goodreads. It's doing worse than coprophilic Nazis, colonial pedophilia, ferociously internalized misogyny, and some of the longest sentences that ever longed. It bugged and bugged to the point that, feminist with a strong streak of engineering mentality that I am, I went and crunched the data of the books on my own to read shelf, specifically r
What varied postures humans assume after traumatic events. Some reside in stoic resilience, their screams silent on the inside, because the human need to communicate vocally, has been mentally eviscerated. Some live in anguished existence, blaming the world, blaming fate, while others choose to react aggressively, sometimes harming others, sometimes harming themselves.

This book could be called Three Strong Stories, instead of Three Strong Women, especially since the three parts seem to stand al
Creative writing exercise: I'll give you the words that I had to look up. Not all of them, but the ones I remember, mostly because they were repeated. Often. 1. Write a story that includes all these words. 2. Use them early, use them often. This will ensure that, by some magical means, they become imbued with Deeper Significance.

flamboyant - (no, not flamboyant. That would be too easy) a flame tree.

tongs - flip-flops

hotte - extractor fan hood over the cooker (or not quite, in this case)

Three abrasively unpleasant stories snagged on overlapping locations, like Khady's torn leg and torn ear, snagged and then torn loose by impersonal brutality, a world that wounds

NDiaye's style reminded me of other extremely 'interior' texts, in particular The Hour of the Star. The prose is sophisticated, almost deliberately awkward and consciously repetitive. The grim subject matter demoralised me to the point of wanting to abandon reading, and the magical elements only enhanced the mood of mise
If I were the sort of person who writes one-word reviews, I’d say: “intriguing”. Because this book is definitely intriguing. Don’t be put off by the long sentences, occasional editorial glitches and some repetitions – in the end “Three Strong Women” is a rewarding book. Marie Ndiaye might prefer commas to periods but she can write. And it’s still an improvement from her debut novel, which, I hear, was a 200 page long and contained only ONE sentence, so obviously Ndiaye is overcoming some innate ...more
He'd worked so hard at persuading himself of the contrary that he was no longer sure what was true and what wasn't.
The first woman of color to win the prestigious Prix Goncourt, Marie NDiaye is certainly a gifted, uncompromising writer. Her collection All My Friends was my first foray into her work, and, in some ways, the stories there are stronger than the "novel" Three Strong Women; however, similar themes of how isolating intimacy can be, how identity is subsumed beneath others: at the pers
Friederike Knabe
Marie NDiaye's Trois femmes puissantes is an intricately crafted, complex and thought provoking book. It doesn't initially feel like a novel as it comprises three 'novellas', three fictional accounts that each explores one individual's life at a crucial moment in time. Yet, reflecting later on content, writing and structure I felt that it falls into the category of novel: the stories are linked in subtle ways through imagery, peripheral characters, atmosphere and themes.

NDiaye's novel comes ali
This book is exquisitely and powerfully written – well deserving of its Prix Goncourt – yet it is not one that I would recommend to anyone I know. The three separate stories, which relate to each other only by thin strands of connection, give us a glimpse into the strength of three Senegalese women. But their strength is not of the conquering and victorious kind. It is the burdened endurance of women who manage to pull forth some sense of dignity out of horrific circumstances.

Marie NDiaye’s pros
This read was for the 2011 French Female Writers Throughout the Ages reading challenge, 21st century novel.

There were quite a few books I wanted to read in the 21st century category. I picked this one for several reasons, one of which being that having studied African-American literature and especially African-American women writers, I thought it might be interesting to have a look at what black women were doing in France. Second of all, the author was involved in some sort of scandal (at least
I cannot help it. I am a sucker for a good NPR review.
Nathan Long
"[A]ll she knew of life was what she'd lived through"

There seems to be some difficulty letting people of color into the academic mainstream. A recent study found that 90% of books reviewed by the New York Times Book Review were by white authors. What's more baffling is the response taken when this gets pointed out. There seems to be a massive knee jerk reaction of "well I don't consider myself to be racist, so why should I care the race of the author I read?", which, while not flat out biased, s
Bernard James
Indefatigable inner strength. The type of quiet but continuous resolve to persevere in the face of adversity is the focus of Marie Ndiaye's latest novel. By opening a window onto the lives of her central characters, she paints three separate but consistent vignettes of pedestrian interaction that expose us to multiple levels of exasperation, despair and subsequent endurance.

"He was like that, implacable and terrifying."

This is how Norah, our first protagonist describes her father as Three Strong
Jim Elkins

This won the Goncourt Prize in 2009, and has been reviewed ecstatically. I read the principal novella of the three, the one that occupies two-thirds of the book. It is an unappealing book: conservative and full of clichés. For me, the meliorating quality was the oddity of Ndiaye’s way of thinking.

At first it appears that what matters to Ndiaye is the construction of elaborate long sentences that produce introspective surprises. Those sentences are often in single paragraphs, and even when she wr
Louise Silk
Three Strong Women is actually three separate stories. The first is Norah who's come back to Senegal at her distant father's request. The second is Fanta who's left Senegal years ago and now lives a mediocre life in France with her alienated husband. And finally Khady, who is forced into exile by her in-laws following the death of her husband.

I loved Norah's storyline and was really disappointed when I realized there was an abrupt halt with no ending. Fanta's story is told through the eyes of a
I reacted fairly poorly to this, and I'm not entirely sure why. Three Strong Women tells the (very) loosely interconnected stories of three women, each of whom is also connected to Senegal and to France. Norah is in Senegal, visiting the father she does not quite fear anymore; Fanta immigrated to France because of her French husband (whose POV takes us through the story); Khady is trying, not entirely of her own accord to reach France.

From the beginning, I think, I was put on my guard by how unh
Quel livre étrange ... moi qui ne suis pas membre de l'Académie Goncourt, je n'ai pas apprécié. Il est vrai que Marie Ndiaye fait preuve d'une admirable maîtrise de la langue; mais cela ne me frappe pas nécessairement comme "beau", et, à la limite, comme une bonne formule trop souvent répétée. Comme dans d'autres Prix Goncourt, les personnages (ici, plutôt, le personnage de chaque nouvelle) sont explorés jusque dans les moindres recoins de leurs pensées et motivations. Mais cela ralentit outre m ...more
Ndiaye's writing is crystalline, her syntax and phrasing wonderful (though some might find the length of her sentences overwhelming -- I loved how she plumbed the character's thoughts through and through to reveal uncanny insights which are seldom articulated so well). I also feel that symbolism is seldom used by contemporary writers to such extraordinary effect, possibly because they cannot carry it off or because they feel it's too obvious. For example, Ndiaye's use of birds as symbols of both ...more
J’ai l’impression que tout le monde autour de moi (si ce n’est pas la France entière) hait ce livre. Des qualificatifs tels «prétentieux », «ennuyant », «zéro », «illisible », et carrément «chiant » ( !) s’entendent dans les discussions et se lisent dans les blogs. Eh bien, tout ça n’a fait que d’aiguiser ma curiosité : est-ce que ce roman peut être mauvais à ce point ? Bonne petite soldate que je suis, j’ai décidé de le lire moi-même ; histoire de voir ce qu’il y avait dans ce bouquin qui a pro ...more
Prix goncourt 2009

Amertume et désillusion.Souffrance.
Trois récits, trois femmes (vraiment!... le deuxième récit est celui d'un homme), trois histoires.
Thème: «Non à l'humiliation et oui à la vie» Vraiment?!

La première femme est avocate et retourne en Afrique défendre son frère alors qu'il est accusé pour meurtre de la femme de son père (C'est le père le véritable meurtrier). Ce n'est pas un polar. C'est tout au plus un récit de la relation difficile de l'avocate avec son père.

Le deuxième récit
If you can't tell from the one lonely star up there, I did not like this book. It is three stories. That claim to be connected, therefore forming a novel. Well a name gets used in two of three stories and the main character from the third shows her face in the first, so I supposed that connects them?
I don't have much time for the artifice of literature. But I feel as though that is all that book is. Really strained surrealism. Sentences that last a paragraph just because they can. I mean truly,
Lisa Lieberman
[I've switched to the more recognizable title]

I must confess that I found this book rough going, particularly the middle section which was narrated by a mad (in both senses of the word) colonialist. Way too much detail into the inner life of this infantile, destructive character. We're supposed to infer the strength of his wife Fanta from his reactions to her, but there's too much of him. Fanta is refracted through his warped consciousness which may be significant, politically -- the subaltern n
Claire O'brien
I really struggled with the sentence structure in this book - it may have been the translation, but I found I had to re-read sentences several times to understand them. I also found the story difficult to follow at times - I don't know if it was a form magical realism, but it wasn't magical enough for that I felt, but at times I wondered what had just happened. I was also disappointed that it was three separate stories that didn't interconnect very well, beyond a connection between France and Af ...more
Tanya Patrice
The stories were complex, deep, dark, ugly and powerful. The last one was my favorite - brilliant, and heart-breaking, and sad, and depressing. Actually, all 3 stories are - and all 3 women are mentally depressed, emotionally exhausted, beat down & broke down ... strong for having the courage to wake up every day and live through the shit storm. They all cope in different ways, but one thing the author constantly shows us is how pliable memories are - what they hold on to, and what they bloc ...more
This is a very intense, very disturbing book. It is made up of three stories - the first about an emotionally damaged woman who goes to Senegal to visit her estranged father, the second about a disturbed, and possibly psychotic, young Frenchman and his African wife, and the third about a childless widow whose inlaws make arrangments for her to go to France, once they decide they no longer want to care for her. The stories overlap in small ways and there is incredible bird imagery used in each st ...more
Beautiful prose...I was amazed how much could be relayed in the confines of one sentence throughout the entire book. I had read reviews where it was stated that they found her use of language redundant...?? It must have been something other than an English translation as I found myself reading some of the paragraphs over and over again not because I did not understand the content, but I wanted to savor her words and let the feelings that they evoked in me wash over me again and again.

I enjoyed
David Gallin-Parisi
Tormented to the max. Three parts of this novel keep getting worse and worse. The longest, middle section is told from a male narrator's perspective, who is totally selfish and unaware of the way he's stripped strength from his friends, family, love, and neighbors. Almost funny, but always sickening. The last section is completely devastating. Ndiaye writes in an addictive, realistic style. Some people would associate the recurrence of birds, crows, and buzzards as magic realism, however the cli ...more
Linda Karlsson
I think the title of the book caused some confusion for me as I read and tried to reconcile it with the description on the back cover. ". . .the travails of West Arican immigrants in France." I was expecting to hear about how the strong women prevailed, but instead 2 men seemed to be victorious at the expense of the women. Indeed I found it intriguing to try and "sense" what Fanta was thinking, what her life was and how she was coping. So the second story indeed pushed the capacity of my brain t ...more
Full Stop
Jun 11, 2014 Full Stop added it
Shelves: fall-2012

Review by Emma Schneider

Marie NDiaye’s Three Strong Women lingers over the troubling powers that pull lives apart. Herself the daughter of a Senegalese man and a French woman, NDiaye depicts the strained movement of people between France and Senegal. The 2009 recipient of the Prix Goncourt, Three Strong Women drew particular attention in France because NDiaye was the first black woman to be awarded the prestigious literary prize.

Although deeply connected b
A strange, confusing, and compelling book. This is not so much a novel as a collection of three novellas, each of which features a woman who is either Senegalese or of Senegalese background. In the first, Norah, who was raised in France, is summoned to Senegal by her imperious, frightening, mostly absent father. He has something he wants her to do for him, and she gradually, and to her horror, finds out what it is. The second novella puts us inside of a Frenchman, Rudy, who is married to a Seneg ...more
Simone Maroney
Although the writing was sublime, I had a hard time with this book's plot. I wonder what the point was. Yes, I realize that the stories are all connected (tenuously) but the characters left me... empty, void, slightly depressed. And there was no real conclusion to any of the story lines. Sometimes I think that French authors cannot think of a good way to end a story so they leave things incomplete, letting the reader do all the work. No thanks.
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Marie NDiaye was born in Pithiviers, France, in 1967; spent her childhood with her French mother (her father was Senegalese); and studied linguistics at the Sorbonne. She started writing when she was twelve or thirteen years old and was only eighteen when her first work was published. In 2001 she was awarded the prestigious Prix Femina literary prize for her novel Rosie Carpe, and in 2009, she won ...more
More about Marie NDiaye...
Rosie Carpe All My Friends La Sorcière Ladivine Self-Portrait in Green

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“The beam of light flashed across her own face and she thought, Yes, me, Khady Demba, still happy to utter her name silently and to sense its apt harmony with the precise, satisfying image she had of her own features and of the Khady heart that dwelled within her to which no one but she had access.” 2 likes
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