A monument of language for a flamboyant mother

Flamboyant, proud, and dominant, Josée is unrecognizable after suffering a stroke, which strips her of the ability to speak. Harnessing his power as a playwright and dexterity as a poet, Lanoye weaves together autobiography and fiction to recount the last years of his mother’s life. At the same time he paints a colorful picture of growing up and coming to terms with his homosexuality. Humor, pain and copious amounts of love run throughout this critically acclaimed novel.

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Publication date

November 6, 2018




Tom Lanoye

Tom Lanoye is an award-winning, highly acclaimed Belgian novelist, poet, and playwright… Read more


Book Club Questions

  1. Did it take time to get into reading the book or were you immediately drawn into the story? Why or why not?
  2. Do you see a connection between Josée’s character and the novel’s style?
  3. What do you think of the novel drifting between thought, memory, and emotional tirade? May it reflect the process of remembering very intimate and painful things?
  4. What do you think of Lanoye’s “beginning at the end,” granting the reader the knowledge that Josée will lose her voice and die? Would you have preferred a more classical novel structure with tensions and mysteries, or do you find this choice fitting?
  5. Do you feel like you got to know Josée? Did she come across as larger-than-life, or was this perhaps a trick Lanoye played on the reader, to pay homage to his mother’s aspirations?
  6. Are the family and village dynamics recognizable? Is there any place or family that you have known where/for whom these events might have taken place?
  7. Did the hooting-tooting style allow for moments of vulnerable emotion? By which passages were you moved, if you were at all?
  8. Were there any nice twists of phrases, similes, or thoughts you kept with you after closing the book?
  9. Do you feel like a biography of Lanoye’s father could be as interesting, if written by Lanoye?
  10. Did you feel any sympathy for the lady living upstairs?
  11. Were there any plot points that were left unresolved or not resolved to your satisfaction? Was plot coherence your main focus while reading?
  12. After having finished this book, were you sad you had? Do you feel like reading more of Lanoye’s work, or other books in the same style?


“A playful, touching, and verbally extravagant memoir-novel of grief” —Kirkus Reviews

“The best Lanoye has ever written” —De Tijd

“Painful, gripping, and harrowing, full of verbal pyrotechnics” —Metro

“Heart-wrenching and hilarious” —De Morgen

“Lanoye breaks out the best of his narrative power and his stylistic brilliance.” —Humo