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The Governesses

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  267 ratings  ·  58 reviews
In a large country house shut off from the world by a gated garden, three young governesses responsible for the education of a group of little boys are preparing a party. The governesses, however, seem to spend more time running around in a state of frenzied desire than attending to the children’s education. One of their main activities is lying in wait for any passing str ...more
Paperback, 108 pages
Published October 30th 2018 by New Directions (first published 1992)
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3.48  · 
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 ·  267 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
A bizarre, sui generis, but enjoyable little 'surrealist fable', that can be read in just an hour or two. Although the translation seems exquisite, I am not QUITE sure of the point or intent the 'elderly gentleman' with the telescope God? Are the governesses forces of pure nature - or indicative of the hazards of unbridled passion? Who knows...
Paul Fulcher
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who had inseminated Laura? Heaven only knows. An audacious suitor? A stranger? The elderly gentleman across the way, breathing into his spyglass as though it was a pipette? The eldest of the little boys? The possibilities, alas, were legion and the investigation Madame Austier had entrusted to the little maids turned up nothing. Laura denied having been impregnated by anyone. She had woken up one morning certain that she was expecting a child, and that’s all there was to it.

Les Fugitives is one
Dec 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Rating: 3.5

This slim, striking novel was Anne Serre’s first, published in 1992 it presents a self-contained world, one whose mythic qualities are reminiscent of Mme d’Aulnoy’s adult fairy tales - subject of Serre’s earlier thesis. In The Governesses, like d’Aulnoy, Serre draws on figures from the ancient world – gods, goddesses, priestesses and nymphs – and places at her novel’s centre a female triad, always a significant number in lore and legend - think Graves’s Triple Goddess, Shakespeare’s w
June Scott
Mar 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
By turns dreamy and campy — what pitch perfect tone this author has. But beneath the sex romp lurks a healthy dose of materialist philosophy and existential dread.
Dec 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
5+ out of 5.
A late-breaking contender for one of my favorite books of the year. A devilishly delightful read -- Anne Serre, in her first novel in English, has immediately captured my imagination. The translation from Mark Hutchinson is clean and playful, eschewing the density that can often come with a translation from the French (I say this as one proud of his French heritage and ever-in-love with the language). It feels like it could easily be a Yorgos Lanthimos film, and perhaps should be: re
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oddly delightful or delightfully odd?
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it
So I read this slim book on the train to NYC on Christmas Eve Day. It can only be described as a fairy tale. Three young ladies are hired as governesses by a couple searching to enliven their home life. Ines, Laura, and Eleanor are not your typical governesses. In addition to teaching the boys, they are also in charge of parties and they do know how to put on a good party. They also have dalliances with young men through the iron fence or when they "attack" a young man who has mistakenly walked ...more
Originally published in 1992, Anne Serre’s novella The Governesses has just been translated into English for the first time.

This quirky, dream-like tale is akin to an exotic and erotic fairy tale for adults. Strange and beguiling, it tells the story of three young governesses — Eléonore, Inès and Laura — who live in a grand country estate where they are employed to educate a bevy of little boys for Monsieur and Madame Austeur.

The day the governesses walked into the garden, Monsieur Austeur was s
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Governesses is a punky gothic French fairytale flipped upside down, skirts and all. The book is weird in a way that actually feels weird, managing to be raunchy, socially prescient and surprisingly very satisfying.
Apr 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
Definitely TOO weird for me!
Steve Middendorf
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I can’t recall how this came to appear on my TBR list, but it was on hold at the library and got borrowed automatically, kind of like a man who might get raped by three governesses when walking past the garden gates of the Austeur estate. It’s an odd book, perhaps too ribald for American tastes, and not cohesive enough for literary critics, but I liked it. Like the old man voyeur, I was aroused by the passions of the three governesses. Much is made of the other characters, Monsieur & Madame ...more
Piffle, and tiresome, repetitive piffle at that.
Jason Furman
Feb 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, novella
I read this novella, a combination of fable, fairy tale, and Dionysian revelry in one sitting--as it traversed a story that took place over many years but almost could have been a day. A couple has three governesses, nearly indistinguishable, to take care of their boys, also nearly indistinguishable, in a house that also has some indistinguished maids and an old man voyeur next door. The governesses plan parties, play games, and generally bring light and life to the house--except when they turn ...more
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
THE GOVERNESSES. (1992; Eng. Trans. 2018). Anne Serre. **.
The author is a best-seller in Europe – particularly in France. Of the fourteen books that she has published, this was the first one to be translated into English. I’m not sure why. It’s the story of three governesses – in their late teens or early twenties – who work at a school for boys. They are a randy bunch, and their principal activity is waylaying (no pun intended) passing young men and seducing them as a group. We’d call it rape,
Dec 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: france, novella
A unique novella - in the French countryside there is a house, in which a rich couple lives - with them live an indiscriminate amount of children (you know how children around 8 are - they're essentially a mass that grows and shrinks, not a set of distinct kids), a bunch of indeterminate maids, and three governesses.

The book itself feels like kind of an exercise from a female author: 'can I write a book using exclusively male gaze?' The governesses are sexual beings, not real humans, more like G
Stuart Dredge
Dec 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is slight (a novella, really) but it's lingering in the mind. The book almost reads like a hazy dream: it's strange, rarely logical, and I couldn't tell you What It All Means. A good thing!
Lydia Wednesday
Apr 02, 2019 rated it did not like it
It was just not good. There was no point to it. Also the governesses sexually assault a man in the woods because why not, right.
Jul 12, 2018 rated it liked it
More like 3.5 stars. I love myths and fables, especially with veiled similarities to existing characters. This book feels like a dream. Erotic and trancelike. The governesses doesn’t disappoint. Have fun figuring out who the three beguiling creatures might be.

Thanks to the publisher for access to advance review copy.
Nov 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Three governesses live with Monsieur and Madame Austeur in a huge, fenced-in country house taking care of a bunch of little boys. They seem to rarely teach the boys, though, and instead they run around the large house and its garden, lounging and throwing themselves to passing strangers like nymphs.

This novella is an odd, French fairytale. The governesses seem aloof but they’re incredibly clever. They’re inseparable and don’t seem to function without each other. They are deeply loved by the boy
Mar 31, 2019 rated it liked it
God, who can't relate
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
This is the strangest book I have ever read. I thought I would figure out what it was about once I finished it, but no. Every time I think I knew what was going on, something else would happen to make me shake my head in confusion. It's like a science fiction version of Mary Poppins meets Brigadoon meets the Nanny. I still have no idea what this book was about.
Jason Makansi
Feb 16, 2019 rated it liked it
The Governesses is a fable, a really weird fable. The writing is spare, crisp, and lyrical. The narrative grazes many illicit or forbidden behaviors - voyeurism, sexual activity between children and adults, eroticism, to name a few - without getting diverted or captive to any of them. Perhaps the larger theme is the traditional roles of men, women, and the help in affluent households.

It reminded me of the Greek myth of the Sirens from the Odyssey, but less vocal and more vocational. They are, af
Nov 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
An erotic fairy tale that doesn't take itself too seriously, The Governesses is both light-hearted as well as dark and twisted. It is difficult to explain; this one simply needs to be experienced. The writing is quite good. I didn't know it was a work in translation from the French until I got my library copy of the book and read the dust jacket. That makes sense. I can't see this ever coming from an American or English imagination. Just experience it for yourself and you will see what I mean. I ...more
Charlie Kruse
Nov 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book surprised me in so many ways. So compact, yet so sensual, so strange and beautiful and feverish, that at the end I had to laugh in surprise and delight. Almost like if David Lynch only read Jane Austen. The actions in this book are inhuman in the best sense, in that you couldn't describe any motivations as human, but instead as animal or machine, or some wild combination of both, or of god. The short vignettes pack in them an intensity of feelings that threaten to overwhelm, only to pu ...more
Bob Lopez
Apr 22, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
This novella was recently translated from the French and I read it because of an intriguing review in the New York Times. I give it high marks for its originality and pleasant writing style but overall I didn't love it.
Lizz Martensen
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Weird ... dark ... a little confusing ... but utterly fabulous! Such a nice change from the number of books that I read that are so alike (in topic or style). Definitely for a grown-up audience, but fascinating.
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Weird. Diverting. Short. Usually, I don't like books in translation because they always feel slightly off-kilter, but this book was inherently off-kilter, so I didn't mind. I'm sure it's better in French (though not in my not-really-good-enough French.)
Dec 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting book for sure. I’m not sure if it was the fact it was written in another language or that it’s in the style of fable but I did struggle to understand it. It was enjoyable though to a point.
Michael Jantz
Jan 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous book! Serre writes with the curious cynicism of a zoologist. The book is almost like a “mockumentary” of this certain class of people. Very fast read. There is a funny observation on every page, but also a good measure of poetic phrases.
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