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3.25  ·  Rating details ·  547 ratings  ·  122 reviews
From the hugely acclaimed author of Three Strong Women—“a masterpiece of narrative ingenuity and emotional extremes” (The New York Times)—here is a harrowing and subtly crafted novel of a woman captive to a secret shame.

On the first Tuesday of every month, Clarisse Rivière leaves her husband and young daughter and secretly takes the train to Bordeaux to visit her mother, L
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 26th 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf (first published February 14th 2013)
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3.25  · 
Rating details
 ·  547 ratings  ·  122 reviews

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Navidad Thélamour
So sorry, I couldn't even finish this one before putting it down, which is extremely extremely rare for me!, because the word that kept popping into my head was overwrought, Overwrought, OVERWROUGHT! It seemed like NDiaye was trying way too hard to be deep or profound, and I just couldn't get into her writing style. It seemed...melodramatic, but not in a way that I could appreciate. Just couldn't do it, so, sadly, this will be the first novel EVER to make it onto my "Could Not Even Finish" shelf ...more
Lark Benobi
This novel gets to the heart of the human condition. I feel scoured out by it. I feel like my head was held tight until I was forced to look at the sadness of being alive. The meanings in this novel are not entirely rational and yet the bedrock truth of the story felt so familiar. It was like reading about some tragic, true event.

The characters are worthy of love, and yet they are each so alone and so unloved, and so confused in their isolation, and so unknowable even to themselves. They pity ea
May 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a haunting and somewhat, elusive, nightmarish and enigmatic story which explores the inner worlds of three generations of women in the same family and the secrets that prevent them communicating properly with one another. Like NDiaye's previous novel Three Strong Women it has extended sections that focus on different characters, but this time they are all more closely related.

The first section centres on Clarisse Riviere, who has chosen a new identity to distance herself from her past as
Apr 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I wasn’t expecting this. What a stifling, devastating experience this was.

Ladivine is a highly emotional and intense novel where each page is weighed down with the unrelenting guilt of the characters. Early on it seemed like it might be about mother-daughter shame and guilt, class, race, unhealthy relationships and feeling lost in the world, and it is all that, but so much more. I’m afraid this review is rather futile because I don’t know how to classify this novel or even how to explain i
Roger Brunyate
Apr 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: women
A Bitter Bread

"Had she not made of the servant's life a bitter bread?"

A more or less random line from the first part of Marie NDiaye's new novel. I quote it for two reasons. One is that the translation by Jordan Stump never quite settles into idiomatic English; one is always aware of a kind of ghost French behind it, as in the inverted word order and strange idiom here. He has informed me, however, in a comment on my Amazon review (see spoiler below) that this is an accurate representation of ND
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ladivine is centered around four women: There's Malinka and Clarisse, and then there's Malinka's mother and Clarisse's daughter, both of whom happen to be named Ladivine.

Clarisse doesn't remember much about Malinka's childhood. She remembers that she lived in a small (but always impeccably clean) flat in some Paris suburb; one room for her, and one for her mother. She remembers that Malinka's mother wasn't like other mothers; her skin colour, her job (cleaning other people's homes), her never-fa
Sep 17, 2016 marked it as dnf
I really, really wanted to like this book. It has an interesting premise, and on top of that you realize pretty early on that there's a whole other layer to the story that's not mentioned in the blurb. And that extra layer of context really intrigued me and made me want to keep reading. But the writing was not accessible at all. It was the kind of writing that keeps you so far removed from the story, from simple actions or moments that ground you in the setting, that I could read whole pages and ...more
Mar 31, 2016 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: Man Booker International Prize Longlist 2016
ARC review

Deserves 4 stars for artistic merit - but I no longer want to give 4 stars to these books that are very well done, with which I didn't have that much fun, or which didn't otherwise dazzle me.

I'd been putting off reading Ladivine for the best part of a year, my trepidation about this book - which, going by the initial blurb (I suspect composed by someone who had only read the beginning) as well as the opening pages, seemed to be about a difficult mother-daughter relationship, I expecte
Marie NDiaye's second translated novel is not as raw as Three Strong Women but is equally powerful and disturbing.

Malinka is the daughter of a Black African immigrant, Ladivine. Her mother is poor, she works as a cleaning woman and gives her entire life and self in service to her daughter. Malinka is so fair she can pass as white and she feels deeply ashamed of Ladivine. In fact she calls her "the servant."

After leaving home, she changes her name to Clarisse, falls in love with a white French m
Mar 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-mbi, 2016
A genuine 4.5 star review because I give 4 stars to the first half and 5 stars to the second half. In the first half, we get a "normal" book that tells the story of Ladivine and her daughter Malinka. And the story of Clarisse who has a daughter also called Ladivine. So far, so good. People struggle with deceptions they have chosen to live with and relationships are stretched.

But then the second half of the book happens. There's a revelation (no spoilers here) that is given to the reader in the m
Jun 04, 2016 rated it did not like it
I can't stand the writing style in this book - so cold and alienated. The plot, not that much of it exists, is pretty unbelievable, and the characters are all cardboard - they are nothing like real people. It feels like the writer was trying too hard to come out as sophisticated and deep, while in reality she had a very thin story which she found difficult to breathe life into.
Claire McAlpine
Ladivine, written by the Senegalese-French writer Marie NDiaye, known for her 2009 Prix Goncourt award-winning Trois Femmes Puissantes (Three Strong Women) came to my attention when it was longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2016.

The blurb describes it as a novel about a women named Clarisse Rivière, who travels by train once a month to visit her mother Ladivine, a woman neither her husband, daughter or grandchildren, or anyone connected to her present life is aware of. They bel
Paul Fulcher
"She was Malinka again the moment she got on the train, and she found it neither a pleasure nor a burden, having long since stopped noticing.

But it happened, she could tell, for no more could she answer without a second thought to Clarisse when rarely, someone she knew took that same train and called to or greeted her as Clarisse, only to see her stare back in puzzled surprise, a hesitant smile on her lips, creating a mutual discomfort that the slightly flustered Clarisse never thought to dispe
Erin Glover
Aug 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
NDiaye beautifully captures a young woman's desire to create a new identity for herself while not quite leaving her past behind, maintaining a secret relationship for decades with her mother of whom she is embarrassed. She even changes her name from Clarisse to Malinka. This story is about how secrets build impenetrable walls that cannot be torn down by even your closest family members. These walls carry on to the next generation, guaranteeing a distance among loved ones. Malika become undeciphe ...more
Sotiris Karaiskos
One of the books that after the end of it I have a particular difficulty in putting in order what I have read and writing a review. Usually this is done with books that I did not like, so I usually do not bother writing something about them, but I loved this book too much and that's why I feel compelled to write a few words. To be able to put things in a row, the book is as conventional as it is unconventional. It begins to tell a "normal" story, somewhere in the middle, however, this story is d ...more
Apr 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: translation, fiction
marie ndiaye's latest work to be translated into english, ladivine, is an enigmatic and singular work of fiction—at times both bewitching and mesmerizing. ndiaye, winner of the prestigious prix goncourt, offers a multi-generational tale of psychological insight and emotional legacy. though a wearying sorrow permeates throughout, ndiaye's well-woven plot and impressively crafted characters keep the story afloat. there is much to love about ladivine, but perhaps its most outstanding quality (among ...more
Mar 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: translations
This book was quite surprising. I almost didn't read it as it didn't make the short list for MBI, but I am so glad I did. Very engrossing read and I don't want to give anything away, but the magical realism took me by surprise and sucked me in completely.
Disha Bose O'Shea
I will say this much, I have no idea what else I feel about this book other than that I deeply enjoyed it. I cannot explain it, in the same way I can’t explain how a Kundera book affects me either. It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact emotion you’re left with after such a read and ‘Ladivine’ presents the reader with several.

The story is slightly complicated, or at least I thought it would be; given that there are several characters with the same names, all of whose lives are intermingled and ent
Apr 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
My first attempt to read this lasted about 6 pages, before I decided I wasn't in the mood for it - but then I came back to it a week later. Wish I'd trusted my initial instincts, as this was one of those books that I hurried to get through as I wasn't really enjoying it at all. Am rather shocked it got nominated for the International Booker, since to my mind, a book in translation is only successful if you feel reading it that it WAS originally written in English. With this I was almost constant ...more
Apr 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
A sometimes moving but ultimately too long story of three generations of women whose lives are constrained by feelings of alienation and shame, unhappy women who bring unhappiness to others and fail to connect with those close to them. I enjoyed this original and unusual family saga up to about the half way mark. The opening section of the child Malinka who rejects her mother out of shame is complex and touching. But later sections become almost surreal and the writing becomes repetitive and far ...more
Jul 13, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: reviewed
Update: I'm in a discussion about this novel with other goodread readers. No one seems to know what's happening at all. And during the discussion, I realized that's true: this is a senseless mess. It's as if the printer shuffled the pages. Either that, or the author just wrote any ol' thing that came to mind. I honestly did try to understand what was happening, I took lots of notes, reread certain sections, etc. But there is nothing here.
Mar 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rising from the soul, which sways the heart of every single word. With deepest power in simple, yet driven ways. So exquisite; Drawing in the force of its viewer. What a well written piece!
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
One of the expectations I have from a book that advertises the plot like Ladivine does, is that there is a substantial payoff for the secrets kept by the characters and unraveling the motivations for their actions. Ladivine drags on both accounts for a good half of the book and does it in a very obtuse way. The second half of the book starts filling in the blanks but doesn't really reveal everything. Somethings just are.

One thing that did bother me at the start of the book: (view spoiler)
June Scott
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a fascinating novel this was. So much of it is opaque -- the emotions and actions of the three generations of women it follows are often muted or inexplicable. But the author's taut style and the beauty of the writing was stunning.
Apr 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
And so she said nothing.

Readers of translated fiction would probably have come across Marie NDiaye through her 2009 Prix Goncourt winning work “Three Strong Women, the work also making the shortlist of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2014 (the Award won by Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s “The Sound of Things Falling – translated by Anne McLean). The English translation of her latest work Ladivine, just being released in the United Kingdom and is scheduled for release in the United States next week.

Amy McLay Paterson
2.5 stars, I guess.

I started off liking this book quite a bit and ended up not liking it at all. The story seemed so sure of itself at the beginning but went quite off the rails in the second half.

The most grating aspect of Ladivine is that certain characters are referred to throughout by their first and last names together. And when it started, it seemed as if the author were making a point, but by the end I didn't know or care what that point was. Essentially, I feel the same way about the boo
Jul 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
Did she really become a dog? While, I did read the entire novel, I wondered if maybe I shouldn't have finished it. Ladivine goes in search of what happened to her mother (that is from jacket), perhaps metaphorically, not physically.
Lane Pybas
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: summer-2017
Ladivine is a strange book about strange people doing strange things (or normal people doing normal things, depending on your perspective.) In the first third of the novel, a woman called Malinka cuts her mother out of her life because of the shame her mother’s social status as a black cleaner brings her. In the second two thirds, Malinka’s adult daughter Ladivine embarks on a nightmarish vacation with her husband and children in an undisclosed tropical country in order to avoid the vague humili ...more
Wiebke (1book1review)
What did I read there? I still couldn't tell you what actually happens in the book. Also the writing had an annoying circuitous, mysterious structure that didn't serve any other purpose than showing how unreliable the characters were in their perception of the world and keep you reading.
No I cannot recommend this at all.
Kasa Cotugno
This is a book that defies description, busts genres. I chose it from the Booker International Prize longlist, and am surprised it didn't make the short. Its premise is intriguing, its promise stems from the author's previous work, and its execution is masterful.

Four generations of related women feature prominently, all affected by the actions of one. Clarisse is daughter to one Ladivine, mother to another. As the book opens, she has been visiting her mother monthly for years, a fact she has ke
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The Mookse and th...: 2016 Longlist: Ladivine 3 33 May 12, 2016 03:54PM  
ManBookering: Ladivine by Marie NDiaye 11 58 May 11, 2016 07:43AM  

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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
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