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1963. 6-year-old Pauline and 4-year-old Clémence, two inseparable sisters, are living a life of poverty but tranquillity on the island of Réunion. One day while fetching water from the river, they are kidnapped and bundled onto a plane bound for France. They are not immediately told that they will never...
1963. 6-year-old Pauline and 4-year-old Clémence, two inseparable sisters, are living a life of poverty but tranquillity on the island of Réunion. One day while fetching water from the river, they are kidnapped and bundled onto a plane bound for France. They are not immediately told that they will never return to the land of their childhood. They are given a small package of clothes before being separated - a second terrible wrench for the little girls. Having lost all contact with Clémence, Pauline retreats into silence and deep remorse at not having been able to save her sister. Adopted by an unloving family with whom she experiences some painful times, she is later entrusted to new parents who come to love her. These emotional upheavals erase her last memories of where she came from, as does the new first name her mother gives her: Isabelle. She grows up in a loving environment, but one day she happens across her adoption papers - an adoption that she had blocked out of her mind in order to survive. She rejects her adoptive family and begins to lead a dissolute life until she comes under the calming influence of Marc. She becomes a florist and has two children, Caroline et Sébastien, from whom she hides her past. 1998. Isabelle’s daughter Caroline is studying journalism and develops a growing interest in her family’s history. When she questions her mother about their family history, Pauline increasingly withdraws into herself. Disconcerted by her reaction, Caroline decides to carry out her own research on the ground in Réunion. She comes up against a wall of official silence, but with the help of Sully, a handsome local journalist, she uncovers the terrible episode that occurred on the island in 1963 which forcibly removed her mother to mainland France and ultimately robbed her of her identity. It is an extremely emotional moment when she finds out that her
natural grandfather is still alive and she succeeds in finding him. She now has to persuade Isabelle to return to this land and also to get in touch with her sister Clémence, who is now residing in Albi in the south of France.
But how can you become yourself again when you have been lied to? How can you reconstruct a family tree? What were these secret adoptions and this conspiracy of silence in the 1970s?
This is a story of resilience and personal reconstruction which revisits a little-known episode in French history which became a national scandal - that of the ‘Children of Creuse’, who were part of a mass transfer of children from Réunion to sparsely populated regions of mainland France in 1963, against their wishes and that of their families.
Ariane Bois is a journalist. She has published several novels including Le monde d’Hannah (Robert Laffont, 2011) with 40,000 copies sold, and Le Gardien de nos frères (Belfond, 2016), who has won prix Wizo 2016.