Lauren Elkin

Vintage Publishing
United Kingdom
18 June 2024


Lauren Elkin

The story of two couples who live in the same apartment in north-east Paris almost fifty years apart.

In 2019, Anna, a psychoanalyst, is processing a recent miscarriage. Her husband, David, takes a job in London so she spends days obsessing over renovating the kitchen while befriending a younger woman called Clementine who has moved into the building and is part of a radical feminist collective called les colleuses.

Meanwhile, in 1972, Florence and Henry are redoing their kitchen. Florence is finishing her degree in psychology while hoping to get pregnant. But Henry isn't sure he's ready for fatherhood...

Both sets of couples face the challenges of marriage, fidelity, and pregnancy, against a backdrop of political disappointment and intellectual controversy. The characters and their ghosts bump into and weave around each other, not knowing that they once all inhabited the same space.

A novel in the key of ric Rohmer, Scaffolding is about the bonds we create with people, and the difficulty of ever fully severing them; about the ways that people we've known live on in us; and about the way that the homes we make hold communal memories of the people who've lived in them and the stories that have been told there.


Anna lives in an apartment in the Belleville neighbourhood of Paris. It’s 2019. In her late 30s, she’s recently suffered a painful miscarriage and has deferred returning to work as a psychotherapist. Her husband David is a lawyer currently living in London. Their kitchen is about to be renovated, plus the scaffolding is up for restorations to their building’s façade. Anna becomes friends with the younger Clementine, part of a feminist collective called les colleuses, the gluers, who paste slogans like ‘she leaves him he kills her’ around the city at night, drawing attention to gendered violence.

In 1972, Florence is in the midst of her own feminist awakening, living in the same Belleville apartment with her husband Henry, also a lawyer. Studying psychotherapy, Florence attends Jacques Lacan’s legendary seminar series with her pregnant friend and sometimes with her married lover Max. She’s ready to start a family, Henry isn’t.

In this space filled with ghosts that echo across history – and in the hammering of household renovations – Florence and Anna both discover the limits of fidelity and how their unconscious desires interact with the boundaries of their physical world.

Lauren Elkin, a French-to-English translator (The Inseparables) and brilliant writer of nonfiction (Flâneuse, Art Monsters) spent 16 years writing Scaffolding, her first sortie into fiction, in between other projects, including the birth of her son. It’s an intense and intimate novel, cleaved close to the experience of its protagonists. Elkin wears her cultural influences on her sleeve – the writers Janet Malcolm, Georges Perec and Chris Kraus, Surrealist women artists, the films of Éric Rohmer, and of course Lacan, referred to as a philosopher of desire.

Scaffolding is big in size and scope, a theory of sex, love and relationships in narrative form pulsing with repetitions, traces and openings. Like its title suggests, Elkin has erected a solid framework under which some kind of transformative marvel is performed. I couldn’t put it down. It’s urgent, sensual and thrillingly intelligent. Worth waiting 16 years for.

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