Anna has been living happily for twenty years with loving, sturdy, outgoing Guillaume when she suddenly (truly at first sight) falls in love with Thomas. Intelligent and handsome, but apparently scarred by a terrible early emotional wound, he reminds Anna of Jude the Obscure. Adrift and lovelorn, she tries unsuccessfully to fend off her attraction, torn between the two men. “How strange it is to leave someone you love for someone you love. You cross a footbridge that has no name, that’s not named in any poem. No, nowhere is a name given to this bridge, and that is why Anna found it so difficult to cross.”
Anne Serre offers here, in her third book in English, her most direct novel to date. The Beginners is unpredictable, sensual, exhilarating, oddly moral, perverse, absurd—and unforgettable.
The Beginners is as much a celebration of the dizzying excesses of female desire as Serre’s other work. Even in comparatively realist mode, Serre is a seductress.
— Becca Rothfeld, Bookforum
Her books that have been translated into English—The Governesses, The Fool and Other Moral Tales and The Beginners—have a glamour in the older sense of the word, that of witchcraft. These are books that, in their concern with the properties of fiction—plots, narrator, genre, characters—use these very elements to beguile.
— Rhian Sasseen, The Point
[A] wry, unconventional novel about a woman’s desire.
— The New Yorker
— Publishers Weekly
Genuinely original—and, often, very quietly so. Seriously weird and seriously excellent…call it the anglerfish of literature.
— Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
Serre’s language is tight and fabulist, a slim and sensuous fairy tale that reads like something born from an orgy between Charles Perrault, Shirley Jackson, and Angela Carter.