Rising star of the thriller, the French novelist Johana Gustawsson quickly won over her readership with her thrilling intrigues, full of twists and turns, where it is also a question of femininity and motherhood. She returns this year with a thriller taking place partly in Quebec, Hold your hand while everything burns. The heroine of the novel, Inspector Maxine Grant, is called to a gruesome crime scene in the fictional village of Lac-Clarence.
The story takes place in three stages: in 2002, in 1949 and in 1899, in Quebec and in Paris, and refers to many historical facts.
In 2002, Maxine Grant drove at full speed to get to a crime scene in Lac-Clarence, a small municipality in Quebec. The former village teacher, a woman appreciated by all, murdered her husband. There, Maxine makes strange discoveries.
In Paris, in 1899, Lucienne Lelanger refuses to admit the death of her daughters in a fire. She joins a secret society, hoping that spiritualism and black magic will help her find them.
Still in Lac-Clarence, in 1947, a young girl named Lina had an eventful adolescence. Her mother, hoping to calm her down, asks her to volunteer at a nursing home where she works, the Mad House. There she meets a strange patient.
Johana Gustawsson says she visited Montreal once, for a few days, and didn't have time to visit Quebec.
"I got to know Quebec through one of your authors, who has become a very good friend, whom I love very much: Roxanne Bouchard. We are published by the same publishing house for the United States and English rights. »
As a tribute to Quebec culture, the novelist therefore decided that her novel was going to take place in Quebec and was able to count on Roxanne to know "how to best talk about Quebec".
"Afterwards, we are in Quebec, but what I liked was being able to talk about the Francophonie, the French language, while being elsewhere. It's a wonderful exoticism for me, French, and I think that for the readers, it was the same. Quebec is a bit of a dream for us French people! »
In addition, the mother of three children (including twins!) wanted to address the question of motherhood, through this story.
“It was very hard to have children. I went through in vitro fertilization and it was quite an adventure. We all experience motherhood differently and I wanted to talk about love in all its forms: what we are capable of doing for our children. We do the best we can – there are no perfect mothers, there are only good enough mothers and that is what Maxine tries to be. And all women, in their own way. »
"What is interesting for Maxine is that she is everything at the same time: she is the mother of a teenager, she has just lost her husband whom she loved more than anything and at the same time, she is someone 'one who has been very lonely raising her children. She has a career and a boss who has no children and understands nothing about raising a family. »
Johana Gustawsson adds that she wanted to address all these facets of motherhood, to talk about the body that changes when you become a mother, when you get older.
“Beauty, aesthetics, comes first and foremost through self-love. Gina's character talks a lot about that. It is a book in homage to women and for women, so that we can help each other and be less crushed. »
"My car leaves the paved road and pitches like a boat set afloat. I navigate between the potholes by giving frank thrusts of the accelerator. Holy shit. The tires squeal as they crush the frost-coated rocks. They spit mud on the aisles then straighten up, crackling. The Caron building stands at the end of this stony alley, straight as an I, dug in the heart of a wood as dense as a fleece. Planted in the center of a snowy glade, it resembles the pupil of a dead eye: fixed, dark, and rimmed in white. »