Convent school

Annie Ernaux looks back at her teenage self – and sees a stranger

How can you recover the teenage girl you were? Not just recall the memories and recount the events — this dress worn at that party, the taste of that alcohol on this boy’s mouth — but restore the world in which these things took place, and the self who acted and was acted upon. Is it possible to be your own Orpheus and yank the Eurydice of your former self from the underworld of forgetting? This is the problem that Annie Ernaux sets herself in this slim, transfixing memoir of young adulthood and first sexual experience. It’s 2014 and Ernaux is looking at a picture. The picture was taken in