Your Father’s Room

Written by Julian Evans (trans.) Michel Déon
Review by Janice Ottersberg

Michel Déon is a French author well-respected in France for his long literary career of over 50 works, but little-known in the English-speaking world. He was born Éduardo Michel in 1919 and died in 2016 at the age of 97. This recent English translation is a fictionalized memoir of the author’s early life until age 13 while living with his wealthy parents first in Paris, then in Monte Carlo. Éduardo’s (Teddy’s) story begins in 1920 with memories of being cared for by others while his parents were absent much of the time, detached from him and each other while busy with their own lives. As Teddy grows and enters school, he can never live up to his parents’ expectations. He repeatedly disappoints and embarrasses them. He is witness to his mother’s infidelities and keeps her secret from the father whose love and attention he craves. Déon depicts the interwar period through Teddy’s eyes. He is an observer of the adult world around him and the rich and famous who frequent Monte Carlo.

At around 100 pages, Déon’s writing is spare but impactful as he writes of a young boy’s struggle growing up and trying to make sense of the adult world he lives in. With one brief, powerful phrase Déon conveys the emotional damage done to Teddy when his father belittles him. “Words that stick,” Déon writes—and we know exactly how those words cut into Teddy. Déon has three other novels recently translated, two of which I have read: The Foundling and its sequel, The Foundling’s War. These are both wonderful, immersive novels which take place before, during, and after WWII. He deserves to have a wider English audience, and I will watch for more English translations of his work.