Stepping Out: A Novel

Julie Rose

Stepping Out: A Novel
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Stepping Out: A Novel

Julie Rose

This novel opens in provincial France in the 1970s, with the eighteen-year-old protagonist, dressed in borrowed platform shoes and a cape, her possessions in a plastic bag, abandoning her home and schooling, to move in with her lover Marco. Two passions fuel her rebellion: rage at the cruelties of family life, particularly those inflicted by and on her mother; and a deep commitment to the act of writing, in the face of all obstacles and indifference. Stepping Out is a portrait of the artist as a young woman, written with Rey’s characteristic combination of indignation, frankness and humour, as much a dramatisation of the conflicts that have shaped her as a writer, as a testament for the generation that follows.


The difference between a novel and autobiography,’ muses the narrator of this clearly autobiographical novel, ‘[is that] novels are closer to the truth. They’re full of the confusion, the violence and the hue and cry of truth.’ This intriguing reflection, in the midst of a ‘novel’ where the French narrator’s name is the same as the author’s, captures the elegant, intense, fiery and occasionally philosophical nature of Stepping Out**.

Catherine runs away just two months before she turns 18, giving up everything for her married lover, a house painter. The two key relationships in this novel are with Marco, the lover, and Catherine’s brilliant, acerbic, deeply narcissistic mother, who left her with her grandparents at three weeks old, and has flitted in and out of her life ever since. But just as important is Catherine’s devotion to her writing. Rey reminds me of her fellow European Sybille Bedford, who also wrote evocative autobiographical novels about her eccentric family. She explores class, literature, family and feminism; all woven into a compelling story that interrogates the changing social mores of 1960s France.

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