This witty autobiography captures the rich and varied life of a renowned French author and pioneering feminist, through the obstacles and movements in twentieth-century France.
Born in 1920 in Paris, Benoite Groult obtained the right to vote only when she was twenty-five years old. She married four times, bore three children, underwent several illegal abortions, became a writer after she turned forty, and a feminist in her fifties. Groult chronicles her experiences and her intellectual developments through successive phases—as an obedient child, an awkward and bookish adolescent, and a submissive wife—until finally becoming a liberated novelist.
Here, she recounts the childhood trips she spent with her family, Paris during the occupation, her marriages, motherhood, and her continuous fight for women’s rights. At ninety-one years old, she concludes that she has been, and still is, a happy woman—lucky to have captured her freedoms, one by one, paying for them, delighting in them, and loving them. Sexy, chatty, and full of shrewd insight, My Escape covers her years of struggle and success—as a daughter, lover, writer, wife, mother, and reluctant socialite—and draws a portrait of the role of French women in the twentieth century.
Groult, a proud, sassy feminist, is well known in France for among other ouvres her then-racy novel Salt on Our Skin and her widely-read Ainsi soit-elle, which alerted many French readers for the first time to the practice of female genital mutilation. Whether one is familiar or not with Groult's work, this book is delightful for its frequently beautiful prose, and appealing for how it deals with controversial subjects (abortion, female subjugation, sexism in language). Intimate memories of the author's childhood skiing with her father, wonder-gawking at her mother and adulthood are fraught with struggle and questioning, as are her loves and love affairs. Misgivings about daughter-, mother-, grandmother-, and wife-hood decorate Groult's story, to which she adds interviews as well as analyses of women's treatment both in literature and in society at large. She endears herself to readers through profound insights and a generous sense of humor; her honest and occasionally bawdy style is a major plus. Though the book is not always seamless in its construction, it is clear that what Groult remembers and contemplates matters deeply to her. In that sense this book embodies what an autobiography should be: a careful selection of memories, anecdotes, and observations that gives the feeling of having conversed with a wonderful and memorable person.