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The Godmother

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  3,435 ratings  ·  367 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, France’s most prestigious prize for crime fiction

Meet Patience Portefeux, a fifty-three-year-old, underpaid Franco-Arab interpreter for the Ministry of Justice who specialize
Paperback, 192 pages
Published September 3rd 2019 by ECW Press (first published March 9th 2017)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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 ·  3,435 ratings  ·  367 reviews

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Sep 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 "mousse au chocolat noir avec merengue" stars !!!

2020 Honorable Mention Read

Thank you to Netgalley and ECW press for an e-book in exchange for my honest review. The English tranlation was released in September 2019. This book has won both European and French Crime Fiction Awards.

This is a short novel that packs a whole lot of punch. It is immensely clever and frothy like the best made merengue but wait underneath is the richest darkest chocolate mousse that is still light but in its depth is
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
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
I’m 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. S
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
Oct 18, 2020 rated it liked it
I picked this book up because a GR reviewer gave it 5 stars, and I was intrigued. I was not aware this was “crime fiction”. I guess it’s not my ‘thing’. I can appreciate that those who are into this genre of fiction would like this novel. I can give it 2.5 stars which will give it a 3 for the GR system. I don’t feel it should be panned by me. For crime fiction, what little I have read of it, it seems to be good. This book was made into a movie — it just came out last month (September 2020) and i ...more
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 t
Oct 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Whip smart book!

Truly, I have not come across such in quite some time. Years. Of course numbers of books holding heartfelt endearments or more kindness, oodles of pure wit or cleverness? Yes, some of those I have met may have been more erudite or melding for plot to characters. But not a one was this whip smart. And whip smart in this length and directness is an IDEAL read.

Brisk, clenched, dialect of one word which clinches more than 10 sentences. Just superb. "talk doesn't make rice"- I am all
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 se
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
Apr 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
A drug trafficking matriarch is the mafiosa style anti-heroine of this surreal black comedy. The sardonic narration in the distinctive voice of the protagonist is mixed with snappy street-wise dialogue and acerbic social commentary on the institutionalised racism and exclusion in the Parisian banlieues. It's an offbeat and seductive portrayal of a nihilistic skewed morality which will have you checking your own moral compass. If you liked the TV series Spiral, you may enjoy a different take from ...more
Angus (Just Angus)
Jul 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Such a good little crime novel and so well translated. I loved this.
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.
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".
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 reader’s 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 s
An unusual book, which I’m ultimately ambivalent about. I loved that Patience took decisive action to alter her life’s 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
Cherise Wolas
The Godmother is a slim crime novel (184 pages) that packs a punch. It won France's most prestigious crime book prize and is 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 speaking A ...more
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 t ...more
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. ...more
Oct 29, 2019 rated it liked it
“It took me a week to spot her [a nursing aide] because in old people’s houses, it’s like in hospitals and creches: almost all the employees working there are Blacks or Arabs. Racists of all sides, you’d 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 a
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 oth
Claire Gilmour
May 01, 2020 rated it it was ok
With less than 200 pages I really should have finished this book a lot faster than I did, but in all honesty, I just wasn’t engaged and it felt like a chore.

Started off ok and I enjoyed the intrigue of the protagonist, but then it just all went a bit bleh for me and it hurt my head.

I guess I just wasn’t that into it. 2 stars.
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.
Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, read-in-2020
Fun, fast read!

Recommended by Melissa on the Strong Sense of Place podcast.
Jan 18, 2021 rated it liked it
Mixed feelings here. This is the story of a French-Arabic woman in her 50s, who is paid a pittance for translating police phone-taps. She becomes widowed at a young age and has to bring up two daughters as well as looking after her mother, whom she does not seem to have any affection for. Eventually, at the age of 53, she becomes a key player in the criminal underworld: The Godmother. The story, short though it is, is full of legal detail as the author is a criminal lawyer and screenwriter.
On t
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
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
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 discrim ...more
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
Aug 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was brilliant!

Full of acerbic wit, hilarious social observations of ingrained racism, criminality and the treatment of the elderly in our modern society today. The story is quite fast paced and the writing superb, although that might be a testament of the translator as well. Legal translator quickly becomes crime queen after listening to them for years, with lots of laugh out loud funny antics. I look forward to reading more of this author.
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