Gratitude – Delphine de Vigan

Published By: Bloomsbury
Pages: 160
Released On: 25/11/2021
Translated By: George Miller

Marie owes Michka more than she can say – but Michka is getting older, and can’t look after herself any more. So Marie has moved her to a home where she’ll be safe.

But Michka doesn’t feel any safer; she is haunted by strange figures who threaten to unearth her most secret, buried guilt, guilt that she’s carried since she was a little girl. And she is losing her words – grasping more desperately day by day for what once came easily to her.

Jérôme is a speech therapist, dispatched to help the home’s ageing population snatch and hold tight onto the speech still afforded to them. But Michka is no ordinary client.

Michka has been carrying an old debt she does not know how to repay – and as her words slide out of her grasp, time is running out.

Delicately wrought and darkly gripping, Gratitude is about love, loss and redemption; about what we owe one another, and the redemptive power of showing thanks.


I hadn’t heard of this book or of Delphine de Vigan prior to reading about it in Robin Ince’s book Bibliomaniac. The way he described the power this book has in its use of language – even in a translated language – was enough for me to buy it.

It is utterly gorgeous. I lost my grandmother in 2016 to dementia, and I had to witness her getting worse and worse over the previous months and it was horrific. Whether we’re meant to believe Michka has dementia or solely aphasia, I don’t know, but the way it is written is so tender, it brings back memories, and it brought tears to my eyes. I rarely cry at books, but this had me crying almost instantly. It is so sensitive and heartwarming and I think it would be beneficial for everyone to read.

It is a very everyday topic – an older person deteriorating, losing their mobility, their home, their voice. Something that may not necessarily make for an exciting book. But she’s taken the ordinary and made it extraordinary, which is a testament to her skills as a writer (and George Miller as a translator).

It is amazing to look at Michka as a child; how she can remember what happened all those years ago, and how much your childhood can affect you all those years later. This innocence that gets lost as you get older, and that you want to reclaim.

I loved the three main points of view. You’ve got Michka herself, her friend Marie, and her speech therapist Jerome. They give three very different, but very honest outlooks on a very sad situation.

Whilst it’s a lovely book, I’m glad it wasn’t a very long one, as I don’t think I could have coped with much more. It is so powerful and heartbreaking.

Sometimes with translated books, the translation gets lost and you don’t get the same meaning or feeling. Now, I haven’t read the original French version – maybe I should – but this translation has so much heart and passion in it, then both author and translator need applauding.

It’s hard to give this book really enough credit in the words I have (which seems a bit ironic). It is an absolute gem of a story.

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