The passing of Camille Kouchner’s mother, the high-profile French writer and political scientist Evelyne Pisier, brought with it a tidal wave of intense memories from Kouchner’s youth. In THE FAMILIA GRANDE, Kouchner offers up the story of her childhood, the divorce of her parents and their respective remarriages, and the years she spent surrounded by the rowdy crew of French societal elites that were their family friends.
Kouchner’s mother’s remarriage appears, at first, to be a blissful liberation from the domineering and distant Bernard Kouchner, a politician and doctor who co-founded Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and who was often away from home. But the warmth and vitality of Kouchner's subsequent young adulthood with her mother and new stepfather, Olivier Duhamel—himself a political scientist and eventual member of the European parliament—is radically shaken when she discovers that her stepfather has been sexually abusing her twin brother. At her brother's request, she stays quiet. With THE FAMILIA GRANDE, Kouchner breaks decades of silence and guilt to right a long-buried wrong, speaking out about the crimes of her stepfather and the figures from French high society who were aware of the abuse and who protected him.
Kouchner’s accusation of her politically and socially prominent stepfather, and his subsequent confession and resignation, began a national reckoning in France on the historically taboo subject of incest. With the original serialization and publication of her memoir, other powerful figures in French society were accused of sexual abuse and in particular the abuse of minors, the French government began a re-evaluation and overhaul of the laws around incest and rape, and stories began to be shared on the internet and social media, breaking the silence and breaking down the isolating stigma around sexual abuse.
Kouchner balances the gravity and depth of her story with surprising humor and tenderness; her writing is deeply perceptive, every relationship examined thoughtfully. With THE FAMILIA GRANDE, Kouchner’s fearless, electric prose provides insights into the lavish world of France’s intellectual and cultural elite, and offers up a raw exposé of the dark, not-to-be-discussed dangers that lurked therein.
THE FAMILIA GRANDE is a remarkable story of resilience, of manipulation from men who hold tremendous power, the secret-keeping that protects them, and of the change that even a single brave voice can bring about.