The Boys’ Hour
A novel about different ways of being excluded
The year is 1945. Simone has survived the war. To evade capture by the Germans, she had to go into hiding without her parents in a series of households, adapting to the lives of farmers, Calvinists, Catholics, social democrats, and intellectuals. But did she ever really fit in anywhere?
Simone is the eternal outsider. She is a girl who wishes she weren’t one, placed in the wrong body by the Creator: ‘Women and Jews – I hardly see a difference. They can’t retaliate; they’re always guilty.’ As the precocious Simone observes the often inexplicable behaviour of the children and adults around her, she cobbles together her own private world view.
The six chapters, unfolding in the reverse of a chronological order, show Simone’s attempts to break free of fixed patterns, through her short hair, her imagination and her physical activities. But when she goes swimming at a time reserved for boys, she exposes herself to humiliation and disgrace.