A CrimeReads Best International Fiction Book of Fall 2023
A powerful, intimate portrait of grief and radicalization that grapples with the conundrum of having loved ones we no longer recognize.
After the death of his wife, a father raises his two sons alone. His bond with Fus, the elder, and Gillou, the younger, is a close one. But their town is not a place of opportunity, and it soon becomes clear that the boys are heading down different paths. Gillou sets his sights on university in Paris. Fus, despite his socialist upbringing, falls in with the local far-right group. Though he joins mostly for the camaraderie, their activities, which might on the surface appear harmless, lead to a violent confrontation.
How can a father and son find common ground when everything seems set to break them apart? A sudden tragedy will force them to find an answer.
Tense, sharp, and ultimately heartbreaking, What You Need from the Night asks what acts can truly be forgiven, and shines a spotlight on the forgotten corners of a country where white supremacy has taken hold much like in the US.
Petitmangin debuts with an intense portrait of a family torn apart by radical political violence in post-industrial France. The unnamed narrator, a railway engineer and socialist, has raised two sons after the death of their mother from cancer. Golden boy Gillou, the younger son, heads off to university in Paris, leaving behind the narrator and Fus, his oldest, who breaks the narrator's heart by taking up with the right-wing National Front party. Their declining village in eastern France is crafted as a bleak landscape devoid of hope, where football and alcohol provide meager comfort. The story of grief and disillusion ramps up after Fus is severely beaten by a members of a leftist group, setting him on a course of vengeance that culminates in tragedy. Rather than slipping into melodrama, Petitmangin pulls off a luminous yet somber exploration of familial disintegration, probing the depths of a father's unwavering love and the agony of confronting irreparable division. It's an impressive testament to the power of tenderness in the face of despair.