His books have long been on the podium of the bestseller charts. Janine Brossard, who will celebrate her 90th birthday next December, signs her return to bookstores today with a novel, in the form of a thriller: When the beauty will wake up (Fayard). Her heroine, Alma Delorme, wakes up one morning in an unknown place. With difficulty emerging from the mists of sleep, she realizes that she has been drugged and kidnapped and is now being held in an abandoned barn. His captor seems to be a young man attached to the denunciation of animal suffering…
But why this kidnapping? The young woman, employed in a social center helping children in difficulty, has a priori no link with the agro-industry. Alma wonders about the reasons which pushed the one who says his first name is Paul to remove it like this. For her part, her husband, Mathis, is desperate to see the gendarmerie’s investigation stall. It won’t take long for him to take matters into his own hands! Located in the Doubs, this thriller is the 58th book by Janine Boissard. Borrowing the codes of the thriller, it highlights above all the bucolic landscapes of the Jura and, particularly, those of the lake of Saint-Point.
On the advice of a friend, the playwright Jean-Claude Brisville (1922-2014), she therefore tried new genres and first launched into the making of a screenplay for television (L’Intruse) , then dabbles in detective novels. “My editor had whispered in my ear that he appreciated that I didn’t write autobiographical things. I thought he was giving me advice and I went astray for ten years by multiplying books that did not look like me, “seems to regret the novelist.
The three thrillers she published in the early 1970s in the prestigious Black Series, however, are of good quality. Especially the second, B for Baptiste, acclaimed by the Boileau-Narcejac tandem. Imitating the lanky style of Frédéric Dard, the novelist begins, in this new register for her, on the hats of wheel. In Au Veuf hilare, she imagines a former private detective who has become a waiter in a bar. Baptized Macaire (like the character invented by the playwright Benjamin Antier in 1823, later immortalized by Daumier), he is a righter of wrongs, unable to refuse his help to the pretty young women who seek him out.
It is under her maiden name that she will publish, from 1977, which is her most successful project. This series, in six volumes, is entitled L’Esprit de famille. It is through her that Janine Boissard will become famous. This family saga will meet, in fact, a worldwide success. Recounting the fate of four sisters (Bernadette, Claire, Pauline and Cécile Moreau) whose father is a doctor, the novelist does not hide the fact that she was inspired here by the now “classic” novel by Louisa May Alcott (Les Quatre Daughters of Doctor March).
Like Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March, her heroines go through adolescence and its ups and downs with panache. And, if they dispute the authority of their parents, they love them no less with tenderness. Precursor of the feel good novels which would flourish ten years later, Janine Boissard is the storyteller of a clan perpetually threatened with breaking up but whose harmony no serious event (neither illness nor separation) will succeed in destroying.
Conceived in reaction to the spirit of sixty-eighters who wants “the family [to be] dead”, this series is also and above all a great revenge for Janine Boissard, who thus stitches up some badly healed childhood wounds. The novelist, who felt neither loved nor recognized by her parents, said she made literature a soothing balm. “Georges Braque said that ‘art is a wound that has become light’, I think that, as long as we still have the wound in us, we have this need to create and to write”, she confides.
Adapted into a TV series in 1982, L’Esprit de famille allows him to reconcile with his own mother. The series will leave its mark on a generation of readers, but above all on female readers, to whom Janine Boissard will subsequently deliver, with the regularity of a metronome, stories of loving families, anchored in a region, drawing from her own history elements likely to give to these frescoes a form of psychological truth.
In each of her works, she will henceforth evoke the relationships, sometimes tormented, between children and parents, brothers and sisters, sons-in-law and mothers-in-law or even grandparents and grandchildren, playing with the discrepancies, gaps and misunderstandings that mark the dialogues between generations… Janine Boissard’s touch consists in describing each of her characters, even the meanest ones, with disarming benevolence.
It doesn’t matter to her then to be cataloged “blue flower”, her novels are selling like hot cakes. This popular success, the novelist will always entrust to consider it with astonishment. “It’s always a mystery. The bestseller is the book you write without knowing you’re expecting it”, she likes to slip into the countless signing sessions to which she willingly lends herself in the book fairs of province.
By the late 1990s, however, sales of his books were eroding. Faced with new, more biting authors who do not mind exposing the intimacy of their characters more crudely, Janine Boissard wonders. She remembers the end of the inglorious career of Hervé Bazin, one of her models. To win back with a bang, she will therefore return to her first love: the thriller. From then on, she will follow the intrigues, where she has fun plunging her characters into anxiety-provoking environments.
The hardest part is maintaining the suspense.
This is followed by the arrangement of the chapters, organized in such a way as to mislead the reader, in a good sense of the word. This work of decantation and this patient alchemy give his writings a form of nervousness. “You don’t always realize that a crime novel is a complicated construction…which requires a sense of organization. To make my stories ring true, I always go to the places I describe. I design specific sheets for all the characters. But the most difficult thing is to maintain the suspense,” she slips to those who ask her about her work. And there, she said, “I leave it to providence.”
After having resided for a long time on the left bank, the novelist returned to live a few years ago in the 16th arrondissement. “My childhood neighborhood,” she smiles. Janine Boissard marvels at every moment not to see her imagination dried up. “Most of my novelist friends retired a long time ago. Some have died. Me, I continue. It’s great, isn’t it? she enthuses. “It is thanks to writing that I am in great shape because it allows me to meet people and to be interested in many things”, continues the novelist, who considers her life as a thriller. “Each day leads us into the unknown, surprises await us at every moment,” concludes the author, who has become, over time, the matriarch of a clan that has a dozen grandchildren.