Chrétienne’s disarmingly clear view of the adults with whom she lives—her pious parents and the notorious convicts in their charge—is both hilarious and harrowing. Her parents, driven by their desire for sainthood, subject Chrétienne and the prisoners alike to inhuman rigors and coldness. Denied it by her family, the child finds human contact among the convicts, especially the Chinese murderer Tang. Pervading all is the grotesque yet fascinating atmosphere of the penal colony and its colonial setting—an atmosphere that we discover through the alert, inquisitive consciousness of a young girl. Constant’s portrayal of Chrétienne and her frightening life in the penal colony is unforgettable—the work of a major literary, and satiric, talent.
The Governor’s Daughter is one of the most acclaimed French novels of recent years.