Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Godmother” as Want to Read:
The Godmother
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Godmother

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  1,898 ratings  ·  205 reviews

Inspiration for the major motion picture Mama Weed; translated from the international bestseller La Daronne, winner of the European Crime Fiction Prize and the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, Frances most prestigious prize for crime fiction

Meet Patience Portefeux, a fifty-three-year-old, underpaid Franco-Arab interpreter for the Ministry of Justice who specializes
Paperback, 192 pages
Published September 3rd 2019 by ECW Press (first published March 9th 2017)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,898 ratings  ·  205 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Godmother
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ✺❂❤❣
My parents were crooks... They had lost everything... (c)
It seems that I am the last in the family line of adventurers. (c)
My endless summer had not begun at all how I had imagined it. (c)

The synaesthetic protagonist and all the other shebang are brilliant.

The situation with her elderly mother is patently horrible. Why we, as a society, fail our weakest citizens? We have nothing to offer the elderly, the weak, the disabled...

The family in question is very mindboggling. Along these lines:
Maureen Carden
Im not sure where to begin or how to begin. Not my favorite book, but honesty compels me to give The Godmother at least four stars. Who knows, by the end of this review I might have changed my mind all over again. I am vacillating, which is something new to me. Maybe. Sometimes.
The life story of the widow Patience Portefeux is at times, amusing, other times poignant. Brought up in luxurious neglect for most of the year, Patience is the daughter of a Tunisian born Mafiosi and a camp survivor.
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: crime fiction fans, literary fans, fans of women's fiction
Lately I've been reading some wonderful slim novels in translation by women. And I'm loving them. This reminded me a bit of another gem I just read, Territory of Light. Only this is a crime novel. I don't read much in this genre, but the fact that it won France's most prestigious book crime prize drew me in. Plus the premise. The narrator herself is a translator of Jewish and Arab descent. Already you see the complexity.

Patience Portefeux (what a name!) translates Arabic communications from drug
Sonja Arlow
Mar 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

Now this was a lovely surprise.

Widow Patience is not necessarily portrayed as a likable character, and honestly, she prefers it that way. Her children are not overly fond of her and her ailing mother is almost more than Patience can handle, emotionally and financially.

Because of Patience work as a translator for the courts she is in an ideal position to listen in on the most intimate conversations between targeted drug suspects. And just by accident she becomes the new owner of 1.2
Paul E. Morph
Spoilerific plot summary: (view spoiler)

This book started well; the author spends a lot of time establishing her protagonist in an intriguing manner. Unfortunately, from then on out, the plot flits about like an amnesiac butterfly and I found myself losing interest in the protagonist, who
The Godmother is such a dark quirky tale.
Wonderful gritty translated fiction by this French author with a background in criminal law.
This edition is translated by Stephanie Smee who also has a law background. She's been awarded the 2019 JQ Wingate Prize for No Place to Lay One's Head by Francoise Frenkel, so I might put that one on my reading list too.
I'm not sure whether this is a crime story or a story of the drug trade in Paris. Either way it's a good sharp and succinct story with a difference.
Patience Portefeux, fifty-three, an underpaid French-Arabic translator has run out of patience. She grew up with a criminal father who lost her family's wealth and died suddenly. Her husband, her one true love also died suddenly leaving her to deal with two children, a dying mother in a nursing home and no pension. An opportunity arises for Patience
Jan 10, 2020 rated it liked it
An interesting book, very interesting.
Unfortunately didn't like the style of writing. Cannot work it out is it style of writing or translation. Anyway one or the other, annoying!
On the positive side, I enjoyed the Arabic part of the story, the way how the main character learned Arabic and not only Arabic, lots of other useful things.
Also an unusual book.
The book was a Christmas present from my old friend, "a spy book lady".
Robert Intriago
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, 2019
A strange story but quite enjoyable. Patience works as an Arabic translator for the Drug Police in Paris. She is broke and has a mother in an elderly care facility. She realizes she is getting old and has no savings so she takes advantage of her job to make money. The story is loaded with dark humor and some clever dialogue which at times can get a little confusing (maybe the translation?). I also liked the social commentary by the author regarding the life of the Arab immigrants in France and ...more
An unusual book, which Im ultimately ambivalent about. I loved that Patience took decisive action to alter her lifes circumstance. Yay. (Sure, it was illegal, but the poor woman was desperate.) The scenes and desperation regarding aged care rung very true, and so too the racism experienced by many communities. But there were some really odd bits - a boyfriend who just appeared three-quarters through without being mentioned earlier, lack of soul-searching about the impacts of her actions (a few ...more
Tamsien West (Babbling Books)
Really engaging, great fun for a standalone crime book. Plot was satisfying, and the pace worked well. Reminded me a little bit of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, in that the protagonist is a woman with an unusual voice.
Jo Beth
Review: The Godmother by Hannelore Cayre, translated by Stephanie Smee

I wish to thank ECW Press and NetGalley for this advanced readers copy in return for my honest review.

I was interested in reading this book based on the description on the NetGalley site. I had high hopes. I was disappointed. The underlying story for The Godmother is a good one. The author took too long getting to this story. In fact, it took about 25% of the book before I was engaged at all. I was about to give up when the
Kylie Purdie
Feb 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
If you're looking for a short book that packs a lot in, you've found it. At less than 200 pages, The Godmother has a lot to offer.
At the centre of the story is Patience Portefeux, a single woman with two grown daughters, who earns her living translating police surveillance audio from Arabic to French. Her mother is in care, suffering from dementia. All she wants is to leave her daughters something and to make her own life a bit better. And if in the meantime, she can improve the life of some
Dec 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very satisfying crime novel. That may seem like a strange statement but Cayre managed to write her main character in such a way as to make her admirable.....and intrepid. So often novels color the *criminals* as hateful creatures, out to hurt others. Patience Portefeux is trying to make it through life, like so many others to whom a bad hand has been dealt. The story highlights the issues of taking care of aging parents along with those facing immigrants in France, all the while making it just ...more
Oct 29, 2019 rated it liked it
It took me a week to spot her [a nursing aide] because in old peoples houses, its like in hospitals and creches: almost all the employees working there are Blacks or Arabs. Racists of all sides, youd better know that the first and the last person who will feed you with a spoon and wash your private parts is a woman you despise!

This is the voice of Patience Portefeux, a 50 year old French woman of Tunisian/Viennese Jewish parents. The above excerpt relates to her mother who is now demented and
Heather Fineisen
A well written story about a translator who speaks Arabic and her use of her skills to break in to the drug business. Faced with nursing home expenses for her mother and college fees for her daughter, the main character stumbles upon information during a translation job that leads her to a life of crime. Interesting premise although not entirely original. Well executed. The nursing home scenes were most creative.

Copy provided by the Publisher and NetGalley
Jay Dwight
Good premise, just a bit too slow and not enough happening to keep me thoroughly engaged.
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Mmm. I always love a bitter narrator. It's hard not to see Isabelle Huppert as the Godmother here.
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book. Simply unbelievable! The Godmother, what a woman! This made me feel like I was watching a French police procedural film, and now that I know it has, in fact, been made into a film starring Isabelle Huppert as The Godmother, it's almost beyond perfect. Seriously, this book absolutely blew me away. Completely original, unlike anything I have ever read in my life. The titular character, Patience Portefeux, is splendidly drawn
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This short novel is full of layers of meaning, well-drawn characters and action, presenting a very different view of French society from the usual stereotype. The central character is acerbic and engages in crime, having grown up as the daughter of a crime boss. However, she has morals and ethics and is looking for love. It is amazing how much of the lives of many of the characters are unpacked, given the shortness of the novel. They are nearly all outsiders, foreigners; facing immense ...more
Cherise Wolas
The Godmother is a slim crime novel (184 pages) that packs a punch. It won France's most prestigious book crime prize and is soon to be a major motion picture. Patience Portefeux, 53, had a tumultuous childhood, is a longtime widow, the mother of two daughters, and caring for her aging mother in a rest home, which costs a fortune, and may very well bankrupt her soon. French and Arabic-speaking, she is a courtroom interpreter and transcribes phone-tapped conversations where drug dealers are ...more
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
A delight. A French-Arabic translator uses her drudgery filled work to go rogue and make some much needed cash. Exudes a type of whimsical nihilism that the French do so effortlessly well. Fresh, smart and funny.
3.5 stars. Not at all what I was expecting (not sure what exactly that was now) but very nicely done. I'd like to read more by this writer.
Belinda Badman
Nov 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a most interesting book. Whilst I wouldnt normally consider a drug dealer as a hero, the motivation for the lead character to turn to crime is quite understandable. An eye opening peek into modern France that isnt what you would first think of when imagining Paris. ...more
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
a tonic.
Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Godmother is a quick read at less than 200 pages but it still has all the components needed for a great crime novel with an intriguing storyline and a captivating main character. What makes this book unique is its protagonist, Patience Portefeux. She stands out, among many other female crime novel characters, as a middle-aged woman working as a translator who is also a criminal. Patience is both intelligent and charming with her wry and darkly comedic observations of Paris and the drug ...more
David C Ward
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice. Patience, a 50 year old Parisian on the edge of ruin - early death of her husband, mother in long term care, no pension or resources, two daughters - figures out how to use her knowledge as a police interpreter (fluent in Arabic) - a job shes drudged at to keep her head above water - for a big score. The scam goes off like clockwork, fooling the drug dealers and the police, and Patience does some good along the way. Despite the breezy tone, theres a sharp critique of contemporary society, ...more
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating book, translated from the French. Fairly short; action packed in places, great narrative arc of The Godmother's career and ingenuity and her life of crime after many years of struggle. Certainly includes some of the complexities of the colonial relationship between France & Algeria & the struggles leading to independence in the 60's. The fallout from that is part of the narratives in the French culture, although that may be fading as the people involved age.

There are places
Simonne Lambert
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very well written fast paced read - both exciting and witty. I found Patience so interesting, so likable (although she would disagree) and just so French. I could not put this book down. While the book is called The Godmother, that is only a part of her life. The book tells us about her childhood, her marriage and subsequent early widowhood when she is left with two young children. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved Patience. She had me chuckling a few times. Highly recommended
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Smart, sharp and very funny. The narrator/ protagonist pulls no punches in her devastating portrait of modern French sensibilities, but she also makes no effort to disguise her own biases and failings. Through it all, you are laughing and cheering for the self-styled godmother to pull it all off. One of a kind.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Weekend
  • Bruny
  • Peace
  • Darkness for Light (Caleb Zelic, #3)
  • Fleishman Is in Trouble
  • Your Own Kind of Girl
  • Silver
  • The Wife and the Widow
  • There Was Still Love
  • Maybe the Horse Will Talk
  • The Good Turn (Cormac Reilly, #3)
  • Act of Grace
  • Too Much Lip
  • The Erratics
  • Wolfe Island
  • Grandmothers
  • About a Girl: A Mother’s Powerful Story of Raising Her Transgender Child
  • The Yield
See similar books…
A criminal lawyer, she is also a film director and, above all, a writer.

Related Articles

We asked Alice Bolin, author of Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession, and journalist-turned-crime novelist Laura...
95 likes · 46 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »