A pulpy tale of mismatched twins struggling to embody the "perfect woman."
Translated by Emma Ramadan
Claudine has always been pretty and Pauline has always been ugly. But when Claudine wants to become famous, she convinces gloomy Pauline—with her angelic voice—to pretend they’re the same person. Yet just as things take off, Claudine commits suicide.
Pauline hatches a new scheme, pulling on her dead sister’s identity, inhabiting her apartment, and reading her mail. As the impersonation continues, Pauline slowly realizes that the cost of femininity is to dazzle on the outside while rotting away on the inside—and that womanhood is what ultimately killed her sister.
Best Translated Book Award 2019 Finalist
"It’s pulp in every sense: propulsively readable, violent, sexy, with all the satisfaction of an inevitable ending. And yet it’s also a feminist parable, blunt and unrelenting in its wrath, and it feels as fresh now as it would have ten years ago." —The Paris Review
"Chilling and wonderful, coolly presenting the raw, jagged edge of womanhood." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"This novel shows [Despentes] at her best: It is a mean little book, wickedly funny, totally lascivious, often pornographic." —Kirkus Reviews
“Despentes’s writing is propulsive, exact, and luscious, all qualities channeled by her exquisitely talented translators.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
“This is an honest, gritty look into the line between owning one’s sexuality and being owned by it.” —BUST
“An intoxicating pop-trash plot of stolen identity that reveals the brutal and hilarious rules of gender—the high-octane philosophy beach read of the summer.” —Joanna Walsh, author of Worlds from the Word’s End
“Virginie Despentes had me in a headlock the whole time I was reading: she’s a feminist Zola for the twenty-first century.” —Lauren Elkin, author of Flâneuse: Women Walk the City
“Pretty Things is the type of rare, enticing book you devour in a fever. Effortlessly cool and slyly spiky, Despentes probes the dynamics of fame, beauty, and female competition, putting her finger on the pulse of what it’s like to wear the daily drag of femininity—and then pressing down, slowly and calmly, right where it hurts.” —Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine
“Intensely visual and viscerally felt, Pretty Things is a biting commentary on the devil’s bargain of conforming to modern femininity. By the end you’re left wondering what, exactly, the end result of this game of gender is all for, and what has been lost along the way.” —Vanessa Martini, City Lights Bookstore
“Throughout, the prose shines—Emma Ramadan does a terrific job translating the original French into poetic, descriptive lines. I found myself stopping over and again to admire sentences that got a lot of work done with economy. . . . Just gorgeous.” —Maximum RocknRoll
“An obscene, wild, entertaining ride.” —Barrelhouse
Interested in reading this book with a group? Download group discussion questions for Pretty Things here!