The Strasbourg-born French Jewish novelist Eliette Abécassis has been inspired by themes from the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Shoah. Yet Abécassis, daughter of the noted Morocco-born French historian of philosophy Armand Abécassis, seemed to switch subject matter in 2008 when she wrote “Mother and Daughter: a Novel” (Les éditions Albin Michel) about the fashion superstar mother-and-daughter team, Sonia and Nathalie Rykiel. This too, however, turned out to be a story filled with Yiddishkeit, after all.
Based on a year spent observing the Rykiels at their fashion company, from which Sonia, born in 1930, just retired, Abécassis produced what she called an “elaboration” rather than biography of the two women. Now Nathalie Rykiel offers her own viewpoint in “You Will be a Woman, my Daughter” from Les éditions Calmann-Lévy, a compelling family memoir.
As much maternal as daughterly, Nathalie Rykiel, whose book’s title is addressed to her own young offspring, is very much the Jewish mother, even offering remedies for migraine. She expresses admiration for Jewish singers like Monique Andrée Serf, known as Barbara, and Leonard Cohen, especially the latter’s song “In My Secret Life.”