The Safe House: Book summary and reviews of The Safe House by Christophe Boltanski

The Safe House

by Christophe Boltanski

The Safe House by Christophe Boltanski X
The Safe House by Christophe Boltanski
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' rating:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published in USA  Oct 2017
    240 pages
    Genre: Novels

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

In Paris's exclusive Saint-Germain neighborhood is a mansion. In that mansion lives a family. Deep in that mansion. The Bolts are that family, and they have secrets. The Safe House tells their story.

When the Nazis came, Étienne Boltanski divorced his wife and walked out the front door, never to be seen again during the war. So far as the outside world knew, the Jewish doctor had fled. The truth was that he had sneaked back to hide in a secret crawl space at the heart of the house. There he lived for the duration of the war. With the Liberation, Étienne finally emerged, but he and his family were changed forever - anxious, reclusive, yet proudly eccentric. Their lives were spent, amid Bohemian disarray and lingering wartime fears, in the mansion's recesses or packed comically into the protective cocoon of a Fiat.

That house (and its vehicular appendage) are at the heart of Christophe Boltanski's ingeniously structured, lightly fictionalized account of his grandparents and their extended family. The novel unfolds room by room - each chapter opening with a floorplan - introducing us to the characters who occupy each room, including the narrator's grandmother - a woman of "savage appetites" - and his uncle Christian, whose haunted artworks would one day make him famous. "The house was a palace," Boltanski writes, "and they lived like hobos." Rejecting convention as they'd rejected the outside world, the family never celebrated birthdays, or even marked the passage of time, living instead in permanent stasis, ever more closely bonded to the house itself.

The Safe House was a literary sensation when published in France in 2015 and won the Prix de Prix, France's most prestigious book prize. With hints of Oulipian playfulness and an atmosphere of dark humor, The Safe House is an unforgettable portrait of a self-imprisoned family.

Read a Sample

Click to the right or left of the sample to turn the page.
(If no book jacket appears in a few seconds, then we don't have an excerpt of this book or your browser is unable to display it)

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Boltanski describes his family as afraid 'of everything, of nothing, of others, of ourselves,' but what comes through in this short, smart, funny book is bravery and toughness, especially that of his grandmother, who in a world of imaginary and real terrors kept the family safe and together." - Publishers Weekly

"Complex and meticulously plotted; this mystery house full of odd characters will make the reader consider storytelling as the building of a physical and mental space." - Kirkus

"The Safe House is well crafted and ingeniously structured. Christophe Boltanski is a superb stylist, moving with ease, always seamlessly, between different times and various places. Despite its claustrophobic appearance, the novel is quite spacious and emblematic in telling a story of historical horror, displacement, and human struggle for survival." - Ha Jin, author of The Boat Rocker

"Maybe every memoirist, meditating on the past, inevitably writes fiction, but Christophe Boltanski's entrancing novel walks the high wire between memory and imagination with exceptional grace, wit - and deadly force. A brilliant, moving, and entirely original work of art, which is to say a work of truth, as if a century, rather than a man, had written its memoir." - Patricia Hampl, author of Blue Arabesques

The information about The Safe House shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Christophe Boltanski

Christophe Boltanski is an award-winning journalist who reported for Libération from London, Jerusalem, and the Gulf War. The Safe House is his first novel. Laura Marris is a poet, essayist, and translator. She has been a MacDowell Colony fellow, and her translation of Louis Guilloux's Le Sang noir is forthcoming from the New York Review Books.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more novels...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Love and Other Consolation Prizes
    by Jamie Ford
    Love and Other Consolation Prizes was read and reviewed by 22 BookBrowse members for First ...
  • Book Jacket: The Judge Hunter
    The Judge Hunter
    by Christopher Buckley
    In London 1664, Balthasar de St. Michel or "Balty" has no discernable skills besides pestering his ...
  • Book Jacket: Star of the North
    Star of the North
    by D.B. John
    It's summertime. You're looking for an absorbing thriller while you flop at the beach. ...
  • Book Jacket: The Abbot's Tale
    The Abbot's Tale
    by Conn Iggulden
    The Abbot's Tale purports to be a re-discovered manuscript written by a real historical figure,...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Harbor of Spies by Robin Lloyd

A captivating thriller-at-sea set in Spanish colonial Havana in the 1860s.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Summer Wives
    by Beatriz Williams

    An electrifying postwar fable of love, class, power and redemption set on an island off the New England coast.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win A Place for Us

A Place For Us

A deeply moving story of love, identity and belonging--the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

H, W H A Problem

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.