Happening by Annie Ernaux – Book Review

Top post on Blogchatter

Book Review of Happening by Annie Ernaux

Book Title – Happening

Author – Annie Ernaux

Language – English, translated from French

Translator – Tanya Leslie

Pages – 98

Price – Rs 813/- (paperback), Rs 20,819 /- (hardcover) , Rs 218.50 (Kindle) 


About Annie Ernaux- the author of “Happening”


Annie Ernaux the Happening
The Author -Annie Ernaux (Wikipedia)


Annie Earnaux is a celebrated French author known for the autobiographical nature of her literature. She has been awarded the Nobel prize for literature in the year 2022 for her book

Originally written in French by Annie Ernaux , the book ” Happening”, has been translated into English by Tanya Leslie.She has also translated many other works of Annie Ernaux.

Happening is set in 1963 and it is the first person account of a young unattached college student Annie , who discovers herself to be pregnant .In 1963, in France, people could make love freely but when it came to contraception – condoms and abstinence were the only approved methods.


Therefore a woman had no control over her fertility. Predictably enough these methods of contraception had a high rate of failure. Once pregnant, a woman had no choice or right to an abortion.


Young Annie did not want to be a mother. She could not have a baby that was born out of casual sex with a partner who did not want to be involved.


However, it was criminal to get an abortion in France at that time. A woman seeking an abortion could be imprisoned and get socially outcast for the same. A painful and shameful death was a strong probability. Since a doctor could be disbarred for providing an abortion, it could only be done illegally.


The book deals with Annie’s struggle to get rid of ‘ that thing’ growing inside her.


Things I loved about ” Happening” by Annie Ernaux


Happening by Annie Ernaux


The Narration


To begin with, from the very first page, Annie’s effortless and vivid narration takes you back into the busy streets of France in1963.Her writing is personal but analytical. Even though Annie does not talk about her feelings blatantly, you can feel the undercurrent all the time.

Annie does not try to defend her stance for wanting an abortion. Annie is a woman making  a choice and is willing to brave the consequences of that choice without sounding like a victim , crusader or a demon.


A woman’s Perspective


Indeed this is a  very personal account of getting thorough life, while all the time being aware of the life within you and knowing it could be the end of you. It’s either ‘ that thing ‘ or you !

As a woman I can understand the feeling. I will not talk about why she chose to terminate the pregnancy or her morals and I think that’s not what the book is about either.

It’s a revisiting of a living nightmare – the shame, the fear , the panic. The dragging down fullness and the final emptiness that does not make your burden any lighter.

Like much of the literature of those times, there is a certain rawness and harshness of the real life which could be unpalatable for some.


A social commentary


As a matter of fact, I have assisted in many abortions during my medical studies, so I am not new to the shame , guilt, fear and the pain associated with getting an abortion. In fact, the present day procedures are more sophisticated and evolved compared to those Stone Age plumbing instruments they used at that time.

People judge an unwed mother judge as someone being irresponsible. Someone who gives in to their instincts without caring for the aftermath.


Annie was from a working class background and her bright mind was able to take her across the class divide where she was finally getting the respect of the upper classes because of her education. Venturing into the dark alleys for a clandestine abortion could be the end of Annie’s dreams and aspirations.


Should a mistake at the age of 23 be the cause of her ruin and probable death ?


Annie leaves the door open for the reader to the small room where she undergoes the coarse ‘procedure’.


Happening by Annie Ernaux is a fascinating book, will she make it … safely ?


My Rating


The best book is one that lets you think and find your own interpretations and Happening by Annie Ernaux is one of those books.

My rating 4/5

( This #bookreview is a part of the #BlogChatter  #TBRChallenge Activity that encourages us to read more books and talk more about books.)

This is the second book of the reading challenge 2023

Here are others :

Book 1 – Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl


I would love to know your thoughts on this post. It would be great if you do leave your feedback in the comments section below.


15 responses to “Happening by Annie Ernaux – Book Review”

  1. The plot and this book looks so interesting and intriguing. Thanks for sharing an honest review. Will grab my copy.

  2. It’s a very good review. I thought u have given away the ending but you left me hanging. Does Annie die during the procedure? I am tempted to read the book but only if its a happy ending

  3. Happening seems like a poignant, compelling and powerful read. I am keen to know if she made it… 4/5… that’s a high recommendation, will surely be checking it out!!

  4. I don’t think I liked the reference to the foetus as ‘the thing’ but I would like to read this book especially for the end. I wonder what all she went through with the baby inside her.

  5. The women still face the shame and go through the fear for choosing to abort even though we have come so far, the world still works on the patriarchal guidelines and women still don’t have certain rights for which only she should have the only say. I am quite impressed by your review and now feel the urge to get this book.

  6. This book sounds like a thought provoking one. It is still a reality and the sad one. Would like to know the story and the end. Thanks for sharing will grab my copy soon.

  7. Annie’s story might be from the 20th century but many women even today don’t have control over their bodies. This must be an emotional and difficult read but would love to experience it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: