Never Anyone But You

Publication Date: Jun 05, 2018

320 pp


List Price US $13.99
ISBN: 978-1-59051-914-1


List Price US $25.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.25
ISBN: 978-1-59051-913-4

A literary tour de force that traces the real-life love affair of two extraordinary women, recreating the surrealist movement in Paris and the horrors of the world wars with a singular incandescence and intimacy.

In the years preceding World War I, two young women meet, by chance, in a provincial town in France. Suzanne Malherbe, a shy seventeen-year-old with a talent for drawing, is completely entranced by the brilliant but troubled Lucie Schwob, who comes from a family of wealthy Jewish intellectuals. They embark on a clandestine love affair, terrified they will be discovered, but then, in an astonishing twist of fate, the mother of one marries the father of the other. As “sisters” they are finally free of suspicion, and, hungry for a more stimulating milieu, they move to Paris at a moment when art, literature, and politics blend in an explosive cocktail.

Having reinvented themselves as Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, they move in the most glamorous social circles—meeting everyone from Hemingway to Dalí—and produce provocative photographs that still seem avant-garde today. In the 1930s, with the rise of anti-Semitism and fascism, they leave Paris for Jersey, and it is on this idyllic island that they confront their destiny, creating a campaign of propaganda against Hitler’s occupying forces that will put their lives in jeopardy.

Brilliantly imagined, profoundly thought-provoking, and ultimately heartbreaking, Never Anyone But You infuses life into a forgotten history as only great literature can.

Excerpt from Never Anyone But You

I began to swim back to the shore. My limbs felt weak and uncoordinated, and even though the tide was going in it seemed to take a long time to make any progress. A knot of people huddled on the beach. Others were running towards the road. One of them tripped and fell, but nobody waited or even noticed. Claude had swum earlier. She would be upstairs, smoothing cream into her arms and legs. Edna, our housekeeper, would be preparing supper, a tumbler of neat whisky on the windowsill above the sink. Our cat would be sprawled on the terrace, the flagstones still warm from the sun—or perhaps, like me, he had been alarmed by the explosions, and had darted back into the house. It seemed wrong that the waves paid no attention to what was happening, but kept rolling shorewards, unrushed, almost lazy.

I was wading through the shallows when I heard another distant thump. It sounded half-hearted, but a fluttering had started in my stomach. Normally, I would dry myself on the beach, savoring the chill on my skin, the last of the light, the peace. Instead, I gathered up my shoes and my towel and hurried back towards the house, feeling clumsy, nauseous.

As I reached the slipway, two more planes swooped over the bay, much lower now, their engines throbbing, hoarse. I cowered beside an upturned rowing-boat. The chatter of machine-guns, splashes lifting into the air like a row of white weeds. I felt embarrassed, though, a forty-seven-year-old woman behaving like a child, and stood up quickly. I entered our garden through the side-door. Claude was standing on the grass bank that overlooked the beach. The hose lay on the lawn behind her, water rushing from the nozzle. Dressed in a white bathing-suit, she had one hand on her hip. In the other she held a lighted cigarette. She had the air of a general surveying a battlefield. They might have been her planes, her bombs.

Named a Best Book of the Year by The Guardian, The Observer, and Sydney Morning Herald. 

“A fascinating portrait of two women who challenged gender boundaries and society’s norms in all they did, the book builds to a moving celebration of resistance, creativity and self-reinvention.” —The Guardian, Best Books of the Year

“Gorgeous and heart-rending.” —The Observer, Best Books of the Year

Never Anyone But You…recounts the story of two women caught in the German occupation of Jersey in ways that enlarge our understanding of history and sexuality.” —Sydney Morning Herald, Best Books of the Year

“There’s so much sheer moxie, prismatic identity, pleasure and danger in these lives…the scenes are tense, particular and embodied…wonderfully peculiar.” —New York Times Book Review

“Sleek, lush…an extraordinary and rollicking tale…Cahun and Moore’s is a beautiful love story that deserves to be better known.” —Harper’s

“Though knowing that Cahun and Moore were real people adds a keen edge to the novel’s power, it is Thomson’s brilliant writing and ability to evoke the love and commitment these two women had toward each other and toward their principles that will stay with you…[an] extraordinary, inspiring, heart-breaking tale.” —Nylon

“A sucker punch. The Parisian streets are so lively they are almost a character themselves in this love story…one part heart-swelling, two parts heartbreaking.” —Bustle

“Taut and absorbing…As with all of Thomson’s elegant and troubling novels, Never Anyone But You exerts a menacing—but never histrionic—power…this quietly passionate coupling of Eros and history lingers on to haunt the darkest recesses of the reader’s mind.” —The Guardian

“Evocative…In this seamless and comprehensive tale, Thomson shines a light on two impressive and memorable life stories.” —Publishers Weekly

“An intense clandestine love affair between two Frenchwomen during the first half of the twentieth century spans art and literature, war and imprisonment, madness and devotion…beguiling.” —Kirkus Reviews

“A rich and sweeping story of forbidden love.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Amid the generally plain prose, we find the stark simplicity of lucid observations finely wrought…Animating these stylistic effects and maneuvers is Thomson’s sharp perception for the tones and textures of his novel’s various periods, locales and milieu…genuinely touching.” —Times Literary Supplement    

“With a dash of Midnight in Paris and a hint of Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, this part love story, part thriller is sure to captivate.” —Library Journal

“Riveting…With skill and verve, Thomson relates the largely untold story of two unsung heroines…One of the reasons they come so thrillingly alive on the page is because he successfully portrays them in many different guises—as artists, socialites, iconoclasts and resistance fighters…[a] remarkable novel.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Beautiful…Never Anyone But You probably contains some of the most elegant writing of any novel published so far this year.” —The Times (UK)

“[An] exquisite account of a duo for whom life and art were indistinguishable.” —Evening Standard

“A historical novel that in exploring gender feels absolutely contemporary. A war story that makes the heart ache.” —Sydney Morning Herald

“Readers enamored of Paris in its artistic and literary heyday and curious about overlooked historical women and members of the LGBT community will be moved by Thomson’s lovely, quietly powerful novel of reinvention in many forms.” —Booklist

“A richly imagined work of historical fiction that succeeds in capturing the essence of each distinct period…captivating and heartfelt.” —Shelf Awareness

“Wrought with deft beauty…the novel bears witness to the power to effect change through love.” —Kenyon Review

“A quiet, expert, inestimably engaging novel.” —Arts Fuse

“Sensitively realized, but hugely powerful.” —Daily Mail

Never Anyone But You…tackles love between two complex people with a tenderness and attention to detail that is almost psychic…[Thomson’s] delicately paced prose inhabits the impatience of young love, the claustrophobic obsession of erotic desire and then, most convincingly, the bittersweet emotion of a woman who is old and anonymous and bled dry by complicity, memory and physical loss.” —The Australian

“Powerfully affecting…Marcel and Claude’s story is an extraordinary one.” —The Spectator (Australia)

“A beautiful and extraordinary book, strange and moving and (as always with Rupert Thomson) quite unlike anything else…It’s a long time since I read a love story quite so convincing and truthful, and the background of the artistic avant-garde in the twenties and thirties is brilliantly evoked. But the fragrance (I can only think of it as a fragrance, like some old perfume such as Mitsouko) of the love affair emerges from the pages as if the very paper is suffused with it…A great novel.” —Philip Pullman, author of the bestselling His Dark Materials trilogy

“In prose so sharp it glitters, Rupert Thomson reveals in fiction what inevitably remains hidden in nonfiction—lived experience. Through the measured but incisive voice of Suzanne Malherbe, the reader enters the intimate world of two life-long lovers, artistic collaborators, and anti-Nazi rebels who left behind a haunting photographic legacy. After I finished this acute and tender book, I felt that two fascinating ghosts had become real.” —Siri Hustvedt, author of The Blazing World

“In this novel about Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, Rupert Thomson tells the thrilling story of how, fusing love and art, one of the great collaborative partnerships of the twentieth century mounted an unthinkably brave, largely unsung campaign of political witness and resistance. The voice Thomson gives Marcel is a brilliant invention: flashes of poetry trouble the patina of its self-control, intimations of the wildness and terror of genius.” —Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You

“Hands down, Rupert Thomson is one of my favorite writers of all time. I impatiently wait for his new novels and he never disappoints. The atmospheric Never Anyone But You is exquisitely crafted and pulls you deep into the love affair of two extraordinary women. Magnificent. As always.” —Andrea Wulf, author of The Invention of Nature

Never Anyone But You puts a hidden piece of history into its long-overdue place in the spotlight. Rupert Thomson deftly weaves a story that spans several decades—the Paris Surrealists, Nazi-occupied Jersey, heroic acts of resistance, and intense and enduring (and forbidden) love—into one seamless whole. Nail-bitingly tense and incredibly moving.” —Monica Ali, author of Brick Lane

1. How do Claude’s views on identity and gender anticipate current thinking on the subject?

2. “The path I had taken is the one I could not imagine.” How do Suzanne’s opinions about love and marriage change throughout her life?

3. To what extent do Claude and Suzanne define themselves as lesbians? If they are ambivalent, why do you think that is?

4. What are Claude’s attitudes to heterosexuality? How do her feelings for Bob Steel fit in with her feelings for Suzanne?

5. How do Claude and Suzanne’s previous life-experiences affect their response to the Nazi occupation of Jersey?

6. Does Claude identify as Jewish? If so, why?

7. What is the difference between Claude and Suzanne’s approach to the photographs they take? Why did they never make the photos public?

8. Are Claude and Suzanne’s attitudes toward the role of women representative of the time they live in?