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.

“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

“Rupert Thomson is a dazzlingly gifted writer…David Bowie was a big Thomson fan and you get a feeling he’d have loved this atmospheric tale of an affair between two young women in 1920s and 30s Paris.” —The Guardian

“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 20th 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

Praise for Katherine Carlyle:

Katherine Carlyle left me stunned and amazed…It’s a masterpiece.”  —Philip Pullman, best-selling author of the His Dark Materials trilogy

“Thomson is a hypnotic writer. His prose is precise and controlled, his images intriguingly dreamlike. Katherine Carlyle leaves a sharp, visceral afterimage in its wake; much of its staying power lies in Thomson’s ability to send the reader’s imagination beyond its final page.” —Elle

“Thomson’s delivery is swift on the page: fluid, visual, deft as a thriller writer’s…The result is charismatic: you’re gripped exactly as you would be by a movie…[Katherine Carlyle is] shocking, emotionally draining, and satisfying all at once.” —The Guardian 

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?