In her memoir, Breakup, Catherine Texier tells how her husband left her for another woman. In Victorine, Texier takes the memory of Victorine, her maternal great-grandmother, and transforms it, so that Victorine, in the throes of a grand passion, leaves her husband and children for another man. Naturally, Victorine's motives are soulful, and yet she has committed a mother's ultimate sin. Her flight with her lover to turn-of-the-century Indochina leads to days of great beauty and nights of sensuous languor, along the banks of the Mekong River. At the same time, she has much time to muse about the struggle between duty and independence, tradition and freedom, longing and regret. All of these thoughts are now condensed into a single day: a day when she has returned.
"Female sexuality--the driving force of Texier's abrasive earlier fiction (e.g., Love Me Tender, 1987; Panic Blood, 1990)--takes a much more romantic form here. Billed as a mixture of fact and fiction and based on the little Texier knew about her eponymous great-grandmother, it's the story of a grand amour and its bittersweet aftermath. The narrative juxtaposes a day in 1940 when the elderly Victorine, living in France under German occupation, goes to the beach with her middle-aged youngest son--with Victorine's staggered memories of her youth, marriage, adultery, and repentance. The latter are revealed in gorgeously written extended flashbacks in which we observe, in the early pages, a young girl who is "good at pretending" growing up in provincial Vendée, briefly encountering handsome teenaged Antoine Langelot, then entering an increasingly unhappy marriage to worldly--and rather officiously masculine--schoolteacher Armand Texier. Victorine bears Armand two children, but dreams of a different, more exotic life. And when Antoine reenters hers and importunes her to travel with him to employment opportunities in Indochina, she vacillates nervously, then, in 1899, leaves her family and joins him. Texier shapes Victorine's Indochina adventure as a series of disillusionments: Antoine's repeated business failures, his slow fall into an expatriate culture absorbed in the pursuit of luxury and the consolations of opium, the "message" implicit in a text she uses to study native languages ("The Tale of Kieu," a narrative poem about a woman who gave up everything to be with her lover), and Victorine's own burgeoning guilt and unhappiness. The close comes with her sorrowful (though resolute) parting from Antoine and her return to Vendée, and Armand. Echoes of both Madame Bovary and Kate Chopin's The Awakening suffuse a nevertheless inventive and artfully composed delineation of a beguiling and complicated woman's arduous journey toward self-understanding. A subtly textured fourth novel: Texier's best yet."
--Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2004)

"Texier based this mesmerizing novel on the family legends surrounding her great-grandmother, Victorine, who left her husband for a year in 1899. At 16, Victorine was the youngest schoolteacher in all of France, but her father’s dreams for her are dashed when she meets Armand Texier and becomes pregnant at 17. The couple marries hastily and settles into a life in Vendée with their two children. But Victorine is never completely satisfied, and when handsome Antoine, a man she loved as a girl, reenters her life, he ignites a deep passion in Victorine. When he tells her he is going to Indochina, he asks her to go with him. She does, and she travels to a world where she is able to reinvent herself. But Victorine has never been a woman to fall easily into any one role, and she finds herself as out of place in Indochina as she thought she was in Vendée. With lush, vivid description, Texier brings to life both the world around Victorine and the woman herself."
--Kristine Huntley, Booklist (February 15, 2004)

“Elegant as a pair of satin gloves, Victorine is the enchanting narrative of a unique woman. By reimagining the missing years in a family mystery, Texier has created a captivating novel of desire, longing, and betrayal. This is a seductive work
of art.”
——Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Crescent

“A lovely and original novel that transported me to another time and place. A tantalizing mix of fact and fantasy: the author inhabits her great-grandmother’s soul.”
——Laura Shaine Cunningham, author of Sleeping Arrangments and Dreams of Rescue

“Catherine Texier’s Victorine is a provocative yet generous meditation on the effects of her great-grandmother’s reckless choice of passion over duty as it ripples through time and generations. Every family has its mysteries and intrigues, but few are this dramatic, and even fewer have been the inspiration for such a vivid and graceful novel.”
——Katharine Weber, author of The Music Lesson and The Little Women

“I was so impressed by Victorine. Yes, it’s love again, but such a candid view of it and in such an original voice. It’s a haunting and remarkable read.”
——Joanna Trollope, author of Other People’s Children

“In Victorine, Texier susses a family secret using all the tools of a dauntless novelist. A surprising and stunning book.” ——Patricia Volk, author of Stuffed

“A marvelous achievement, a historical novel that reads less like an invention than like a discovery, a love story that has sprung to life of its own accord from an old trunk. Victorine takes the reader into a world that is unquestionably real and explores with equal assurance the lost accents of a foreign time and place, and the intractable mysteries of the heart.” ——Paul LaFarge, author of Haussmann, or the Distinction