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All Men Want to Know

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'I wonder who among the crowd has just fallen in love, whose lover has just left them, who has just left someone without a word, who is happy, unhappy, who is afraid, who is confident, who is hoping for a brighter future. I cross the Seine, I walk with men and women who are anonymous and yet who are my reflection. We make up a single heart, a single cell. We are alive...' I 'I wonder who among the crowd has just fallen in love, whose lover has just left them, who has just left someone without a word, who is happy, unhappy, who is afraid, who is confident, who is hoping for a brighter future. I cross the Seine, I walk with men and women who are anonymous and yet who are my reflection. We make up a single heart, a single cell. We are alive...' In All Men Naturally Want to Know the author traces her blissful childhood in Algeria, a sun-soaked paradise, recalling long trips across the desert with her mother and sister and hazy summer afternoons spent on the beach with her friend Ali. But Nina's mother is French - moving to Algeria for love at a time when most Europeans were desperate to leave - and as civil war approaches, their sunny idyll gives way to increasingly hostile and violent outbreaks. When something unspeakable happens to her mother, the family flee to Paris. In Paris, Nina lives alone. She is eighteen years old. It's the 1980s. Four nights a week she walks across Paris to a legendary women-only nightclub, the Katmandou. She sits alone at the bar, afraid of her own desires, of her sudden and intoxicating freedom. There she meets the glamorous, deeply troubled Ely, her volatile friends Lizz and Laurence, and the beautiful Julia, with whom she falls desperately in love. And, most importantly, she starts to write.


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'I wonder who among the crowd has just fallen in love, whose lover has just left them, who has just left someone without a word, who is happy, unhappy, who is afraid, who is confident, who is hoping for a brighter future. I cross the Seine, I walk with men and women who are anonymous and yet who are my reflection. We make up a single heart, a single cell. We are alive...' I 'I wonder who among the crowd has just fallen in love, whose lover has just left them, who has just left someone without a word, who is happy, unhappy, who is afraid, who is confident, who is hoping for a brighter future. I cross the Seine, I walk with men and women who are anonymous and yet who are my reflection. We make up a single heart, a single cell. We are alive...' In All Men Naturally Want to Know the author traces her blissful childhood in Algeria, a sun-soaked paradise, recalling long trips across the desert with her mother and sister and hazy summer afternoons spent on the beach with her friend Ali. But Nina's mother is French - moving to Algeria for love at a time when most Europeans were desperate to leave - and as civil war approaches, their sunny idyll gives way to increasingly hostile and violent outbreaks. When something unspeakable happens to her mother, the family flee to Paris. In Paris, Nina lives alone. She is eighteen years old. It's the 1980s. Four nights a week she walks across Paris to a legendary women-only nightclub, the Katmandou. She sits alone at the bar, afraid of her own desires, of her sudden and intoxicating freedom. There she meets the glamorous, deeply troubled Ely, her volatile friends Lizz and Laurence, and the beautiful Julia, with whom she falls desperately in love. And, most importantly, she starts to write.

30 review for All Men Want to Know

  1. 5 out of 5

    luce

    | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | In the past week or so I’ve picked up three books I’d previously DNFed in the hopes that I would like them better now...turns out instead that I shouldn’t have given them a second chance and that instead, I should have just trusted my gut-instinct. Lesson learned. All Men Want to Know is an incredibly affected and stylised memoir that doesn’t ring particularly true to life. The author and narrator of All Men Want to Know is very much into navel-gazing and has a penc | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | In the past week or so I’ve picked up three books I’d previously DNFed in the hopes that I would like them better now...turns out instead that I shouldn’t have given them a second chance and that instead, I should have just trusted my gut-instinct. Lesson learned. All Men Want to Know is an incredibly affected and stylised memoir that doesn’t ring particularly true to life. The author and narrator of All Men Want to Know is very much into navel-gazing and has a penchant for making edgy comments. The few ‘characters’ who are given lines of dialogue do not sound like particularly believable individuals, rather they sounded like the narrator masquerading as different people. They use the same type of metaphorical and flashy language, and similarly to her have a propensity for making fake-deep statements about human nature, society, queerness etc. The narrative is divided into sections called Remembering, Becoming, and Knowing. These last one or two pages and present us with what amounts to an underdeveloped and fragmented snapshot of the author’s life. This technique is sadly all the rage and if you enjoyed Pik-Shuen Fung’s Ghost Forest you might actually be able to appreciate All Men Want to Know in a way that I was unable to. In the Remembering segments, Bouraoui writes about her childhood, specifically about growing up in Algeria to an Algerian father and a French mother. In Becoming and Knowing Bouraoui is living in Paris in the 80s and going to lesbian bars and clubs, unsure whether she actually wants to find someone or not. I should have found these sections somewhat relatable as they are seemingly intent on exploring her internalised homophobia but the way she articulates her anxieties, fears, and desires struck me as laboured and showy. Nothing about her childhood or her time in Paris is rendered clearly to us. The studied language takes the centre-stage. Which would have been bearable if say her prose was anything like Ocean Vuong or Caleb Azumah Nelson. But her style just isn’t as lyrical and readable as theirs These impressionistic snapshots of her life left no lasting impressions on me as they failed to capture the scenes they were supposedly meant to capture. They begin randomly and end abruptly so that I was left wondering what function they served in the overall narrative. I also found the way the author writes about things such as sexual abuse and suicide to be tasteless and sensationalistic. She seemed more intent on using a certain type of language than on showing any sensitivity towards these topics. Much of the imagery included in this novel was clichéd (we have the classic scene featuring ‘blood’ on ‘sheets’). There was nothing subversive or thought-provoking about this memoir. I found myself disliking Bouraoui and I was vexed in particular by her endless self-dramatizing. Her queer friends all blur together, they are given barely any lines and serve the role of filler. We don’t really gain any insight into Bouraoui’s family dynamics nor are her mother or father particularly fleshed out. Bouraoui also has the habit of speaking on behalf of other characters, so that she will write about the thoughts and feelings someone else is allegedly experiencing as if these are true (rather than her speculations). Although this book is desperately trying to be sensual and deep, it is neither of these things. I found it boring, unconvincing, and sensationalistic. The best thing about this book is the cover. A truly banal excuse of a book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    TimInCalifornia

    What makes us who we are to ourselves? When I think about myself - how do I understand who I am and how I arrived at being this person? In large part that self-understanding is a collection of memories. None of us (with extremely rare exceptions) remember every moment of every day. We have select memories of our pasts, usually associated with feelings, and as we age those memories form us. All Men Want to Know is an elegant piece of writing, a spare and beautifully assembled collection of the aut What makes us who we are to ourselves? When I think about myself - how do I understand who I am and how I arrived at being this person? In large part that self-understanding is a collection of memories. None of us (with extremely rare exceptions) remember every moment of every day. We have select memories of our pasts, usually associated with feelings, and as we age those memories form us. All Men Want to Know is an elegant piece of writing, a spare and beautifully assembled collection of the author’s memories. She gives us moments - here a paragraph, here a page - from her childhood in Algiers with her mother and a father often absent on business travels, months with her grandparents in France, her young adulthood in Paris where she was coming out as a lesbian. All these pieces, these snippets, these memories, assemble them selves into a mosaic of a person, a writer, the author Nina Bouraoui. What stood out to me, is the memories in learning about the lives of parents and grandparents. As a young child, parents and grandparents exist only in the role they play for you as mother, grandmother, father, grandfather. As you age, you learn facts about them as people who had experiences and a life prior to yourself. Your memory of learning about these experiences change your understanding of your mother, your grandmother, and of yourself. Bouraoui writes with both depth and a light touch. I look forward to finding more of her work that's been translated to English.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ...

    All Men Want to Know is told in a dual narrative: part of it takes place in 1980s Paris telling the characters' present story as a gay woman, and the other part is told through her memories of her childhood in Algiers, Algeria. This book is biographical fiction, and the character's story is nearly identical to the author's own. The part of the story set in Algeria explores the idea of national identity (both character and author have a French mother and an Algerian father), and I found this theme All Men Want to Know is told in a dual narrative: part of it takes place in 1980s Paris telling the characters' present story as a gay woman, and the other part is told through her memories of her childhood in Algiers, Algeria. This book is biographical fiction, and the character's story is nearly identical to the author's own. The part of the story set in Algeria explores the idea of national identity (both character and author have a French mother and an Algerian father), and I found this theme to be very interesting. As a white American I have never struggled with similar issues, but have always been fascinated in how culture would be passed down to children like this character. Our narrator speaks French and struggles to communicate with her paternal grandmother who speaks only Arabic. The maternal grandparents are judgmental and disapproving of the marriage and their life in Algeria, which they consider a third world country. This girl is never at home. She is never accepted. She is not seen as French by the French or as Algerian by the Algerians. This part of the story made me reflect upon the stories I have read and heard about children born in Vietnam, as a result of relationships between their mothers and American military men. Ostracized and alone. The best part of the book for me was the beautiful prose describing the colorful, warm, sunny landscape of Algeria. In 2015 I was lucky enough to visit their neighbor, Morocco, and fell in love with everything about the place. This book presented Algeria as a similarly vibrant place. But of course there is also a dark, violent part of life, which tangibly affects our narrator's mother and results in their exit from the country The part of the story which takes place in Paris when the character is an adult examines her identity as a gay woman. It was the 1980s and so she lived in hiding. She visited a gay bar, but couldn't pay for anything with a credit card or check. She couldn't give her phone number. She couldn't allow any trace of her gay life to leak. It is a powerful story to read in today's world. However, I didn't feel this part of the story was written as beautifully as that set in Algeria. Still, the fact that both narratives are discussions on the theme of identity -- national (macro) and personal (micro) -- was smart and interesting.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    this month’s choice for my translated fiction book club came courtesy of bouraoui’s work of “auto-fiction” documenting snippets of her life as a half-french, half-algerian queer woman dividing her time between the two countries. it’s been a long time since I’ve read any French / Algerian literature - the one and only experience being with Albert Camus and the less I say about him the better. however bouraoui’s short, sharp prose coupled with that sense of existential european ennui make for a ki this month’s choice for my translated fiction book club came courtesy of bouraoui’s work of “auto-fiction” documenting snippets of her life as a half-french, half-algerian queer woman dividing her time between the two countries. it’s been a long time since I’ve read any French / Algerian literature - the one and only experience being with Albert Camus and the less I say about him the better. however bouraoui’s short, sharp prose coupled with that sense of existential european ennui make for a killer combination. auto-fiction as a genre is quite a complex concept, immediately providing the reader with a notion of distrust and unreliability towards the narrator. can we truly trust bouraoui’s experiences and voice? will the truth be presented honestly or will our perspectives be skewed with biased and tainted memories. wholeheartedly, these thoughts never crossed my mind as I became engrossed with bouraoui’s laissez-faire writing style that is distinctly Very Very French. with no linear timeline, each “chapter” flits between different memories and encounters throughout the authors life; becoming, knowing and remembering. her experiences as a queer woman in France, exploring the club scene and her relationships with other women during a time when homosexuality was still a contentious issue in society provided an enlightening insight into what the generation before our own experienced, that many continue to today. her memories of Algeria and the racist tensions between her two families echo the experiences of other mixed-race writers who lived through those heightened political tensions. despite bouraoui’s short sentences and didactic, journalistic style, her work and writing invite us into an underground lifestyle that you can tell she is still getting to grips with now. I’m very excited to discuss with my book club and would highly encourage you to add this to your pride month reading list

  5. 4 out of 5

    Charlott

    Written in short vignettes, this is is an autofictional novel about a young woman who tells us about her experiences as a young lesbian in 1980s Paris and her upbringing in Algeria in the wake of independence. The fragmented style beautifully mirrors her fragmented identities and the ways she tries to make sense of all the things which made her and influenced her: her queerness, her sister, her white French grandparents not accepting her Algerian father and the choices her mother made, the feeli Written in short vignettes, this is is an autofictional novel about a young woman who tells us about her experiences as a young lesbian in 1980s Paris and her upbringing in Algeria in the wake of independence. The fragmented style beautifully mirrors her fragmented identities and the ways she tries to make sense of all the things which made her and influenced her: her queerness, her sister, her white French grandparents not accepting her Algerian father and the choices her mother made, the feelings of loss and not belonging. There are layers of trauma in her family she starts to lay open. And then there are the relationships she developes with other women in the queer bar she starts frequenting. In theory, I should have loved this book. But there was something which just did not click completely. For books with such a style I am always hoping to really love the writing on a sentence level. I want to read paragraphs and reread them because they are so stunning and layered and surprising. This did not happen here. Also there are so many themes touched upon but often not deeply developed. So in the end, while I did enjoy reading All Men Want to Know it kept me wanting more.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    I want to know who I am, what I am made of, what I can hope for; I trace the thread of my past back as far as it will take me, making my way through the mysteries that haunt me, hoping to unravel them.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Book 28 of 2020 - All Men Want to Know Thank-you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. The narrative of All Men Want to Know fluctuates between 1980s Paris and the narrator's childhood in Algiers, Algeria, which became independent from France in 1962. It’s categorized as fiction, but the details of our narrator are identical to the author. I would say it’s contemporary auto-fiction. I think the overall theme is identity issues: The narrator was bor Book 28 of 2020 - All Men Want to Know Thank-you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. The narrative of All Men Want to Know fluctuates between 1980s Paris and the narrator's childhood in Algiers, Algeria, which became independent from France in 1962. It’s categorized as fiction, but the details of our narrator are identical to the author. I would say it’s contemporary auto-fiction. I think the overall theme is identity issues: The narrator was born to a French mother and an Algerian father, and there are competing claims on her national identity. Her maternal grandparents live in Rennes and do not approve of their daughter's marriage or her (and consequently their granddaughters) living in Algiers, which they consider the third world. The narrator's native tongue is French, and she struggles to communicate with her Algerian grandmother who speaks only Arabic. To be French-Algerian after Algeria's Independence is not to inhabit two worlds, it is to exist in an unfamiliar, liminal space, neither here nor there. There are several really gorgeous descriptions of sunny Algiers, a mosaic of colour and tranquility, but underneath the glittering landscape is a dark undercurrent. This predominantly manifests as violence towards women: the narrator's mother returns home one day, her clothes torn and her face dirty, and tells her daughters not to ask what happened to her, while years later the narrator's local pharmacist is brutally murdered by her own son for not remarrying after leaving his cheating father, living what he deems is an "unhonest" life. This violence underscores the other facet of our narrator's identity, her sexuality. In the present, she is a regular at a lesbian club in Paris, the Katmandou or "The Kat". She pays for everything in cash, no credit card or cheque book, she never checks her coat in case of a police raid, and she never gives out her number to other girls or accepts a ride home: she leaves no trace of herself and allows for no opportunity to be discovered in her normal life. The fear of consequences for being different is instilled in her. The narrative flows very well, I read it in one sitting. The unprecedented English heat was perfect for reading about sun-baked Algeria. The prose is romantic but direct, which I like but it also fluctuates too seamlessly between Paris, Rennes, and Algiers, between the present and the past (including her mother's childhood in WWII-torn France), you have to keep an eye on who, where, when. (There’s a chance this is the proof copy I got, but also could be technique.) Bouraoui never really settles anywhere, either. The ebb and flow between dark and light, between two worlds, washes up a lot of emotional debris that dissolves quickly in to the sand and never really gets explored. There is a constant sense that we are building up to something that never materializes. It was nice, but I don’t think I’ll be thinking about it for long.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gabriela

    This was my first foray into auto-fiction, one that I found beautifully written & utterly captivating. Bouraoui is masterful in her prose & an author I feel like I should read more of. I particularly loved the short chapters & dual narrative, painting a picture of her younger years in her birth country Algeria & her life now in Paris - at points I felt as if I was there. Bouraoui’s examination of her identify as a gay women was incredibly insightful & yet again I felt as if I have learnt a fair This was my first foray into auto-fiction, one that I found beautifully written & utterly captivating. Bouraoui is masterful in her prose & an author I feel like I should read more of. I particularly loved the short chapters & dual narrative, painting a picture of her younger years in her birth country Algeria & her life now in Paris - at points I felt as if I was there. Bouraoui’s examination of her identify as a gay women was incredibly insightful & yet again I felt as if I have learnt a fair bit. All this being said, I will mention that I did find this one to be lacking something - not sure if it’s just the way I perceived it yet it felt as if it was skimming the surface of her story with no real depth. I still feel like so many will enjoy this one, so please don’t be put off!

  9. 5 out of 5

    tris

    finally a five star rating!!!! please please read this book. such a beautiful account of coming of age as a queer woman, this one touched me in that way good literature should do but so rarely does.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Jane

    See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits I think that All Men Want To Know is going to be a Marmite of a book in that readers will either love the atmosphere and character Bouraoui creates, or will be very irritated by her writing style. Personally I am firmly in the first camp! In what she describes as 'autobiographical fiction' Bouraoui explores her overwhelming sense of not belonging. She is half-Algerian and half-French and finds herself suspended between each of these cultures w See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits I think that All Men Want To Know is going to be a Marmite of a book in that readers will either love the atmosphere and character Bouraoui creates, or will be very irritated by her writing style. Personally I am firmly in the first camp! In what she describes as 'autobiographical fiction' Bouraoui explores her overwhelming sense of not belonging. She is half-Algerian and half-French and finds herself suspended between each of these cultures without being at home in either. She is also a closeted lesbian whose coming out would be prevented by the strict social taboos of her Algerian childhood so she struggles to establish a sexual identity for herself even in the more open climate of 1980s Paris. All the aspects of her personality are jumbled together and this is brilliantly expressed through similar jumbling of the first person narration of All Men Want To Know. Our unnamed narrator skips between moments from her Algerian childhood to nights at a Parisian nightclub, memories of her French grandmother to her intense need to write. Some scenes last for a page or more, others might be just a paragraph, so the full novel reads more as stream of consciousness than organised memoir. I loved the sense of not knowing where to draw lines between Bouraoui the character and Bouraoui the author and this reminded me of reading Seeing Red by Lina Meruane. All Men Want To Know has such a powerful authenticity to it that I came away feeling as though I truly understood our narrator's personal confusion. This is very much a novel of women's experiences and women's relationships between friends and within families as well as sexual love. I highly recommend this book to readers of intense psychological stories and to people who can empathise with feeling alienated.

  11. 4 out of 5

    rosamund

    Bouraoui, like other French novelists I've read, shapes her novel very differently from an English-language novel. Her concern is with place, atmosphere, and the passage of time, and this novel explores the same things over and over from different angles in order to build up a particular atmosphere. Bouraoui is writing of her childhood in Algiers in the 1970s, and of her discovery of the lesbian underground in Paris in the 1980s. These two time periods are intercut, the sections building around Bouraoui, like other French novelists I've read, shapes her novel very differently from an English-language novel. Her concern is with place, atmosphere, and the passage of time, and this novel explores the same things over and over from different angles in order to build up a particular atmosphere. Bouraoui is writing of her childhood in Algiers in the 1970s, and of her discovery of the lesbian underground in Paris in the 1980s. These two time periods are intercut, the sections building around one another to create an atmosphere of unease and a sense of societal tension. Reading this, I tried to immerse myself in Bouraoui's language, and to realise that she wasn't trying to develop a plot thread, or even explore characters in any depth. At times, I found very moving ideas in this book, particularly around childhood and the dislocation of being 'other' as a child, but I was also frustrated by Bouraoui's refusal to draw out any of her characters, or to create any emotional development or catharsis. I wanted to be moved by this book, but, ultimately, I was only frustrated by it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Ascoop

    This book came to me at just the right time I don't think I had anything to do with it it just found its way to me and then devoured me It showed me all the colours of melancholy brought me a strange love for something far away something foreign to long for to ache for I loved it Thank you Nina Truly This book came to me at just the right time I don't think I had anything to do with it it just found its way to me and then devoured me It showed me all the colours of melancholy brought me a strange love for something far away something foreign to long for to ache for I loved it Thank you Nina Truly

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nadia

    (3.5) It's difficult to review a book that's so profoundly personal, especially since this was the first book I've read that's been labelled as 'auto-fiction', blurring the lines between autobiography and fiction. All Men Want To Know is written in a fragmented, vignette style that switches between two different time periods in two different countries, Algeria and France - Algeria where her father is from and where Bouraoui grew up, and France, where her mother is from, and where she begins to u (3.5) It's difficult to review a book that's so profoundly personal, especially since this was the first book I've read that's been labelled as 'auto-fiction', blurring the lines between autobiography and fiction. All Men Want To Know is written in a fragmented, vignette style that switches between two different time periods in two different countries, Algeria and France - Algeria where her father is from and where Bouraoui grew up, and France, where her mother is from, and where she begins to unravel and understand her own sexuality, spending most of her evenings in one of the most famous gay nightclubs in Paris. Her story details a constant struggle with several identities that she has to come to terms with; one of a mixed heritage, where she feels she cannot be wholly French to other French people, nor wholly Algerian to other Algerians; and one of her sexuality, where she cannot fully express her growing desires in the environment she grew up in. Where this book stood out to me was the descriptions of her childhood in Algeria, her time spent in the warmth of the North African sun, the apartment of her youth surrounded by a eucalyptus forest, how prevalent nature is in her memory. These descriptions were so transportive that I could picture my own childhood summers spent in Algeria, picture myself exactly in her shoes as she recounts the afternoons and evenings exploring the vast landscapes of mountain and sea and dessert and forest, all the beauty that Algeria has to offer. And yet there is a darkness that lingers under the surface of the beauty in her memories, one that drives her mother to leave the country along with Nina herself, stemming from a violent attack that is never fully explored but underlines the tone of the novel. This was a short read, one that I felt could have been longer to allow for more in-depth exploration of its characters, but memorable in its atmospheric descriptions and poetic language. Thank you to Viking for this gifted review copy!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Imen Benyoub

    I think until Nina Bouraoui writes something more intense, more beautiful than "beaux rivages" it will remain her very best creation..I have been looking forward to read this one..I am very disappointed..these short bursts of sentenses, these unfinished stories, these tips of icebergs..I really wanted more elaborate, more detailing since she was writing about her intimate and personal life..but she rushes everything..which put me really off..two stars for what I learned about her as a person/wri I think until Nina Bouraoui writes something more intense, more beautiful than "beaux rivages" it will remain her very best creation..I have been looking forward to read this one..I am very disappointed..these short bursts of sentenses, these unfinished stories, these tips of icebergs..I really wanted more elaborate, more detailing since she was writing about her intimate and personal life..but she rushes everything..which put me really off..two stars for what I learned about her as a person/writer xx

  15. 4 out of 5

    niri

    this book left me with impressions more than anything else. not sure if it's the writing or the translation, but it's disjointed and fragmented; i loved parts of it, and parts of it confused me. this book left me with impressions more than anything else. not sure if it's the writing or the translation, but it's disjointed and fragmented; i loved parts of it, and parts of it confused me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Carmella

    **Review originally posted to Lesbrary.com** In the first chapter of her auto-fictional novel All Men Want to Know, Nina Bouraoui (translated from French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins) writes: “I want to know who I am, what I am made of, what I can hope for; I trace the thread of my past back as far as it will take me, making my way through the mysteries that haunt me, hoping to unravel them.” This is just what the book sets out to do, exploring the narrator’s adult sense of identity–lesbian, writer, Fr **Review originally posted to Lesbrary.com** In the first chapter of her auto-fictional novel All Men Want to Know, Nina Bouraoui (translated from French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins) writes: “I want to know who I am, what I am made of, what I can hope for; I trace the thread of my past back as far as it will take me, making my way through the mysteries that haunt me, hoping to unravel them.” This is just what the book sets out to do, exploring the narrator’s adult sense of identity–lesbian, writer, French, Algerian–through her past. Born to a French mother and an Algerian father, Bouraoui lived in Algiers until the age of fourteen, when her family relocated to France. Through this fictionalised narrative, Bouraoui ‘unravels’ her personal history, from a sun-baked childhood idyll in an Algeria threatened by the looming civil war of the 90s, to her search for connection as an 18-year-old in the lesbian nightlife of Paris, to her mother’s own life and experiences of sexual assault. The story is told through beautiful vignette-like chapters that flicker between time periods and locations, mixing past and present, Paris and Algiers. It’s an experimental form that risks becoming frustrating, but I found the short chapters page-turningly compelling. The lack of fixed time and location represents Bouraoui’s own feelings of belonging between places: “I can’t choose one country, one nationality, over the other, I’d feel I was betraying either my mother or my father.” In the Algerian chapters, headed as ‘Remembering’, Bouraoui writes vividly of desert holidays with her mother and sister alongside the horror of political unrest and violence. Roadblocks, harassment, and murders intertwine with family anecdotes and capers with her childhood best friend Ali. As an 18-year-old in Paris, Bouraoui begins frequenting a women-only nightclub, looking for love but too terrified to act upon her desires. In this intimately anonymous setting, she feels part of the gay community (“I like these two words, they don’t so much belong to me as own me”) but experiences disconnection from her new lesbian social circle (“The women I spend time with are my rivals, women I go out with, not my friends”). Away from the club scene, she also begins to write. These chapters–headed ‘Becoming’–are reminiscent of the Parisian chapters of The Well of Loneliness as well as the works of Qiu Miaojin in their haunting sense of alienation. The final narrative strand offers an account of Bouraoui’s mother’s youth in a war-torn France and the barriers surrounding her cross-cultural marriage. These ‘Knowing’ chapters mix family oral history with omniscience – how much would the narrator have been told and how much has been imagined? All Men Want to Know is an evocative, heartfelt novel that explores psychological questions of self, belonging and knowing. While it covers distressing topics, it’s ultimately a beautiful and hopeful account of coming of age while straddling opposing identities.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Helene

    All Men Want to Know was originally published in 2018 in French under the title "Tous les hommes désirent naturellement savoir." This is a short, poetic, evocative, sad book. Nina Bouraoui's words were really well translated. Her chapters about her childhood in Algeria (which she left when she was 14 to go live in Paris) read like poetry. I have never been to North Africa, except for a quick week in a resort in Djerba years ago, but the vivid descriptions of the landscapes really made me want to All Men Want to Know was originally published in 2018 in French under the title "Tous les hommes désirent naturellement savoir." This is a short, poetic, evocative, sad book. Nina Bouraoui's words were really well translated. Her chapters about her childhood in Algeria (which she left when she was 14 to go live in Paris) read like poetry. I have never been to North Africa, except for a quick week in a resort in Djerba years ago, but the vivid descriptions of the landscapes really made me want to go there one day. This is also a perfect choice for Pride month. We follow the narrator's exploration of her sexuality as a queer woman, through her interactions with her childhood friend Ali, as well as her many nights in the lesbian Paris nightclub "Le Kat". There are some tragic dialogues and moments involving peripheral characters, which really ring true and reflect the struggles of lesbians in the 80s, and her own quest for (self-)love. This is not a book about activism or politics. However you will find some interesting passages about the difficulties of belonging in a country when your parents come from 2 different cultures. (Algerian dad, French mum) The paperback is only 175 pages. I would have liked a longer book as I grew quite attached to some side characters and would have liked to know more about them and their stories. At times the plot (especially when it came to her life as a queer woman in Paris) felt a bit clichéd/predictable; but the author calls this book "autofiction", so I have to believe that she writes about what she experienced, even if some of it gives a feel of "I've seen/read this many times before." Solid ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for me. Don't expect plot twists; rather, short bursts about racism, latent and blatant homophobia and male violence. I'll leave you with this quote: "We will always sense the presence of those we are yet to meet, those we are destined to love more than ourselves. When the future fills us with dread, we will remember that others have embarked upon that future before us and may be waiting for us there." Thank you @vikingbooksuk and @ninabouraoui for sending me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I wonder who in this crowd is newly in love, who has just been left and who has walked out without a word, who is happy and who sad, who is fearful and forging confidently ahead, who is hoping for a brighter future. I cross over the Seine, I walk besides nameless men and women, mirror images of me. Our hearts beat as one, we are one unit. We are alive.' Nina Bouraoui's All Men Want to Know brims with beautiful passages that allow the reader to vividy experience life through the narrator's eyes. T I wonder who in this crowd is newly in love, who has just been left and who has walked out without a word, who is happy and who sad, who is fearful and forging confidently ahead, who is hoping for a brighter future. I cross over the Seine, I walk besides nameless men and women, mirror images of me. Our hearts beat as one, we are one unit. We are alive.' Nina Bouraoui's All Men Want to Know brims with beautiful passages that allow the reader to vividy experience life through the narrator's eyes. These passages explore questions regarding identity, guilt, love and ultimately, what it means to be alive. In giving the narrator such a thorough context, we understand her better, we feel her guilt more adeptly, we know why she makes the choices she does. At the same time, we sense the narrator's youth, her naivety, and we know that she still has much to learn, but we are hopeful that with age will come understanding, acceptance and change. Unfortunately, there is a persistent narratorial shift between the present and the past throughout this book, which produces a very fragmented narrative that is difficult to follow and wholly enjoy. Nonetheless, I genuinely enjoyed the story and the writing, and I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested. It is ultimately a beautifully written story which details the importance of gaining the courage to be yourself. Thanks to Penguin General UK and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Veesreadinglist

    “I want to know who I am, what I am made of, what I can hope for; I trace the thread of my past back as far as it will take me, making my way through the mysteries that haunt me, hoping to unravel them.”   Nina Bouraoui is a mixed-race woman, an author, who writes about acceptance and growing in “𝗔𝗹𝗹 𝗠𝗲𝗻 𝗪𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗞𝗻𝗼𝘄”. The book is divided into 3 parts: 𝘙𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘉𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨 and 𝘒𝘯𝘰𝘸𝘪𝘯𝘨. The story line constantly changes from past to present. It felt like I was reading a diary full of memories and “I want to know who I am, what I am made of, what I can hope for; I trace the thread of my past back as far as it will take me, making my way through the mysteries that haunt me, hoping to unravel them.”   Nina Bouraoui is a mixed-race woman, an author, who writes about acceptance and growing in “𝗔𝗹𝗹 𝗠𝗲𝗻 𝗪𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗞𝗻𝗼𝘄”. The book is divided into 3 parts: 𝘙𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘉𝘦𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨 and 𝘒𝘯𝘰𝘸𝘪𝘯𝘨. The story line constantly changes from past to present. It felt like I was reading a diary full of memories and self- reflection, scattered and chaotic. In 𝗥𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗺𝗯𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴 chapters (my favourite) Nina writes about her childhood. The author often mentions her mother and their life in Algiers in 1980s. Difficult times that were unkind to these women. Not only because of their race- the mother was a French while the father was an Algerian- but also the believes and values in Algerian culture at that time, predominantly violence towards women. It was difficult to read.   𝗕𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗴 shows the present times in Paris where Nina and her mother escaped to. Although Paris was like a completely different planet, so liberal, welcoming, Nina still struggles to embrace her sexuality. She is afraid of women as much as she’s afraid of men… The need to love and be loved is very strong but the fear to be rejected and misunderstood is overpowering, rooted deep inside of her.   𝗞𝗻𝗼𝘄𝗶𝗻𝗴 chapters reflect on the childhood trauma. To be this open to the world requires immense courage. I will not go into detail, don’t want to spoil the read for those who are interested. However, trigger warnings: sexual, physical and psychological violence, murder, war signs. I feel so proud of Nina and I don't even know her. 🤍   It feels wrong to say that I enjoyed this book. It was an eye-opening, interesting read. Such a tiny book though! I wish it was longer. I would happily read more of Nina Bouraoui’s works.👏

  20. 5 out of 5

    Shreya ♡

    📍Algeria 🇩🇿 & France 🇫🇷 🍁"All Men Want To Know " is an auto fictional novel where the author shares the vivid vignettes of her life- her childhood in Algeria, her adult life in France, her story of self-discovery and self acceptance through the most elegant proses. 🍁This book is about a woman who was born to an Algerian father and a French mother but still was devoid of the sense of belonginness, who was a lesbian woman living in France when the society called themselves progressive but still cons 📍Algeria 🇩🇿 & France 🇫🇷 🍁"All Men Want To Know " is an auto fictional novel where the author shares the vivid vignettes of her life- her childhood in Algeria, her adult life in France, her story of self-discovery and self acceptance through the most elegant proses. 🍁This book is about a woman who was born to an Algerian father and a French mother but still was devoid of the sense of belonginness, who was a lesbian woman living in France when the society called themselves progressive but still considered homo-sexuality as something derogatory. 🍁In this book that very woman, who is none other than the author herself, narrates the quite introspection of the snippets of her life in a lyrical fashion in three individual parts- Remembering, Knowing and Becoming, and all of them give us an opportunity to take a trip down her memory lane. . #aroundtheworldthroughbooks : Algeria 🇩🇿

  21. 5 out of 5

    m.

    hmm i'm left with the feeling that i should have liked this more than i really did. the family drama, the gorgeous prose, the exploration of sexuality, and the unfamiliar setting all lured me in but i just didn't warm to it. the fragmented nature of the narration always left me wanting more in a way that felt neither intentional nor enjoyable. maybe it was the fault of the translation? i don't know. hmm i'm left with the feeling that i should have liked this more than i really did. the family drama, the gorgeous prose, the exploration of sexuality, and the unfamiliar setting all lured me in but i just didn't warm to it. the fragmented nature of the narration always left me wanting more in a way that felt neither intentional nor enjoyable. maybe it was the fault of the translation? i don't know.

  22. 4 out of 5

    ambre

    thank you women

  23. 5 out of 5

    Katie Whitmore

    This book has a lovely lyricism to it that begs to be read in one sitting. A little jarring at times but you would expect that from just reading the title.

  24. 5 out of 5

    olivia mason

    so vivid and beautiful. an auto fiction about Nina Bouraoui’s early life, told in short, personal pages, flicking between her paternal Algiers and maternal France. an opening into Algeria before the black decade of the 1990s, sexuality, being dual cultured.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Minka Guides

    A gorgeous memoir about a dual heritage lesbian growing up between Algeria and France in the 1980s. As a queer woman, I was fascinated to read the descriptions of lesbian clubs in Paris during this time. Bouraoui captures all the sexual tension, partner drama and awkwardness of the scene in such a detailed way that I felt like I was right there, hovering on the edge of the dancefloor with her. These scenes were interwoven with her childhood in post-colonial Algeria, as the country moved slowly bu A gorgeous memoir about a dual heritage lesbian growing up between Algeria and France in the 1980s. As a queer woman, I was fascinated to read the descriptions of lesbian clubs in Paris during this time. Bouraoui captures all the sexual tension, partner drama and awkwardness of the scene in such a detailed way that I felt like I was right there, hovering on the edge of the dancefloor with her. These scenes were interwoven with her childhood in post-colonial Algeria, as the country moved slowly but brutally towards civil war. As a child, Bouraoui perceives the effects of life as a woman in this country through her mother — a French woman who moved to the country with her Algerian husband. We watch as this woman slowly become unable to withstand the street harassment and attacks that she is subjected to. A fascinating, beautifully told story that transports you through the various eras of Bouraoui's youth. I highly recommend this book. Click here to read my favourite new release book reviews

  26. 5 out of 5

    Emeraldia Ayakashi

    A moving story like a song that oscillates between the intimate and the universal. It is a long poem, where ink draws hollows and silences, sketches voids, where the past "embraces others. It is an assemblage of texts, more exactly moods, pauses and sighs which overlap in a story, which always return to the sea. This story is a kind of initiation path where Nina's mother is the one who protects but also the one who carries the secrets of the whole family, the faults and the ghosts that the girl gr A moving story like a song that oscillates between the intimate and the universal. It is a long poem, where ink draws hollows and silences, sketches voids, where the past "embraces others. It is an assemblage of texts, more exactly moods, pauses and sighs which overlap in a story, which always return to the sea. This story is a kind of initiation path where Nina's mother is the one who protects but also the one who carries the secrets of the whole family, the faults and the ghosts that the girl gradually unfolds . It is lived like a series of songs, which installs you in a meditation, an atmosphere of vegetative solitude. We could also say that these texts, bring together songs of love, the tireless quest for love, the one that the girl desires but that she has so much trouble expressing, explaining. It is a crevasse that opens under her, when none of these meetings allows her to find a bridge between her body and her desires, her desires for love, her need to be loved.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lucky

    Thanks to Netgalley and Penguin for the complimentary copy of this book. I thought Nina’s writing style was rich, beautifully written, descriptive and fascinating. I enjoyed the book and getting an insight into her LGBT journey, her childhood, and what it was like growing up in a dual heritage household in both Algeria and France, as well as the challenges she faced in life - family, relationships, cultural, and sense of self and identity.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Violet Daniels

    This is a deeply moving work of “auto-fiction” told through the life experiences of its author, Nina Bouraoui. It combines the authors real life experiences growing up, but is a work of literary fiction in style and scope. Nina has lived a torn life, and one situated between two continents; Africa and Europe. She spent most of her childhood in Algeria where her Father was from before her Mother chose to move to Paris, because of the outbreak of Civil War. This toing and froing between two cultur This is a deeply moving work of “auto-fiction” told through the life experiences of its author, Nina Bouraoui. It combines the authors real life experiences growing up, but is a work of literary fiction in style and scope. Nina has lived a torn life, and one situated between two continents; Africa and Europe. She spent most of her childhood in Algeria where her Father was from before her Mother chose to move to Paris, because of the outbreak of Civil War. This toing and froing between two cultures, means that Nina struggles to come to terms with her identity, “France is an outfit I wear: Algeria is my skin, exposed to the sun and storms.” The entire novel is told through vivid, first person narration. This may put some readers off, as there’s no typical story structure. However, I loved the sense of depth this created. The prose often reads as part poetry, part inner monologue of Nina’s thoughts, feelings and memories. I found it a harrowing read, as Nina never shies away from the honesty of her experience and the pain she has endured. In this day and age, we are so used to seeing peoples’ ‘real life’ experience through a filtered lens which often bears no reality, however, this novel strips it back to the bare bones. Thus, making it a moving depiction of the difficulties of coming of age, accepting oneself and learning how to live. It is a powerful portrayal of inner tournaments and the pain people go through during the process of accepting themselves. Despite the novel lacking a traditional structure - it is divided loosely into four sections of memory which are used to account for the different periods in Nina’s life. These are: knowing, remembering, becoming and being. Each comment on her life at its different stages - from living in Algeria and witnessing its turbulence as a country, to beginning her new, independent life in Paris at the age of eighteen and toying with her sexuality. Due to this dual upbringing across continents - Nina grapples with her sexuality - she has been attracted to women for most of her life, however, accepting this has been her biggest struggle, “I want to know who I am, what I am made of, what I can hope for…” Homosexuality is still illegal in Algeria today, which relates to the difficulties of not just Nina’s own acceptance of herself, but the society in which she grew up. In Paris, she feels freer to explore this, due to living in a more accepting, Western culture. She acknowledges this cultural and personal struggle vividly, “I’m a victim of my own homophobia” in which the reader is a witness, as Nina documents her first difficult experiences with love and the initial anxieties these bring. Knowing, draws on Nina’s past experience in Algeria, as she accounts traumatic experiences of witnessing her Mother being sexually assaulted, and depicts the variable climate of Algeria which was going through civil unrest. I couldn’t help but feel this exposure must have impacted Nina’s conception of herself, which then impacted her attitudes towards her sexuality and ability to form relationships with women. She had to get over her own boundaries before those imposed on her from others. Remembering, documents visions of her past which are mainly in Algeria. Despite the country’s beauty she remembers that, “violence is etched into the land, unending violence” and this struggle is symbolic in her own boundaries to self acceptance. Becoming, is the most ‘present’ aspect of this autobiography, as it follows Nina’s life as a young adult, living in Paris. She frequents a local, lesbian nightclub in the hope of finding love with other women. This is the most interesting part of the book, as it shows how her past struggles and different cultural upbringings shape her identity and coming to terms with herself. She goes up and down like a yo-yo between being proud of her sexuality and path in life, to feeling disgusted, “I’m nothing but a faggot” which demonstrates the tumultuous rage often experienced with coming of age sexuality. But, with an added distressing aspect - her home country of Algeria, would imprison her for displaying her love for women. Being looks back on her life. This element shows herself starting to accept her identity and letting go of the past. She appears to have found happiness and self love, as a relationship with another woman blooms, “I am the same but I’ve changed, I’ve let go, I’m floating free on this waking dream….” The kind of self acceptance Nina finds, was relieving to read, after Nina’s continuous periods of self doubt. Finally, she appears to be content. A stunning, autobiographical portrayal of the inner, psychological battle. Torn between two cultures and two ways of living, this documents Nina’s transition between hiding from the world and herself, and embracing it. Harrowing and dark at times, but also uplifting and beautiful.

  29. 5 out of 5

    SadieReadsAgain

    So, I'll start this review off by saying that I'm confused. I read this as a memoir, the blurb on the book led me to believe that...but I see others referring to it as either a novel or a "fictional autobiography." I'm reviewing this as the memoir I read it to be, but I gather that "auto-fiction" is typical of this author's style. I don't think it will influence my review, but it might be worth pointing out the ambiguity for other readers in case it influences their take on it. I thought this was So, I'll start this review off by saying that I'm confused. I read this as a memoir, the blurb on the book led me to believe that...but I see others referring to it as either a novel or a "fictional autobiography." I'm reviewing this as the memoir I read it to be, but I gather that "auto-fiction" is typical of this author's style. I don't think it will influence my review, but it might be worth pointing out the ambiguity for other readers in case it influences their take on it. I thought this was a really fascinating book. It is set partly in the Algeria of Nina's childhood, as civil war broke out, and partly in 80's Paris as Nina is discovering her sexuality and navigating the gay scene at that time. Both of these settings see Nina addressing issues of identity - as a French-Algerian born to a white mother and black father, Nina feels neither fully of an Algeria ridding itself of French rule, nor of a family that she is very aware of being "other" from in France. As a young, gay woman, Nina strikes up relationships and acquaintances with other women at a nightclub called the Katmandu, whilst facing her own homophobias and trying to feel comfortable in herself. The book also looks at her mother's experiences, of having a mixed-race marriage and how her family responded to that, and episodes of sexual abuse in both her early life and as the catalyst for the family fleeing Nigeria. Nina spends the book trying to know herself, and know about her place in the world. I really enjoyed the writing in this book, and appreciated what I now suppose was the fictionalisation of certain aspects to create a really solid narrative. The writing is crisp, but still insightful. Neither timeline was grounded in a life experience or time in history that I know a lot about, and I am keen to read more of her books to explore this more. I was gifted a NetGalley of this title by Penguin UK in return for a review. All opinions are my own.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Caught in a void between her father's Algerian heritage and her mother's world of France, Nina struggles to find her identity. With her childhood split between the idyllic countryside of post-colonial Algeria and time with her grandparents in France, the younger Nina feels she doesn't belong to either. With her father largely absent, her mother is a foreigner in Algeria, and with resentment of the former French rule bubbling below the surface, an unease of a constant but undefined threat persists Caught in a void between her father's Algerian heritage and her mother's world of France, Nina struggles to find her identity. With her childhood split between the idyllic countryside of post-colonial Algeria and time with her grandparents in France, the younger Nina feels she doesn't belong to either. With her father largely absent, her mother is a foreigner in Algeria, and with resentment of the former French rule bubbling below the surface, an unease of a constant but undefined threat persists within the family. And yet for the formative Nina, time spent with her maternal grandparents in France also brings a feeling of alienation. At the age of eighteen, Nina finds herself in Paris, again feeling as though she is an outsider, only this time because of her burgeoning lesbian sexuality. In the 1980s, Gay Pride was in its infancy as a mainstream movement, and the ill-defined menace of AIDS was mistakenly believed to be a gay disease. In a heady mix of desire and disquiet, Nina again struggles to understand her circumstances and her place within them. Frequenting the notorious Kat nightclub, Nina takes her first tentative steps on a voyage of adulthood self-discovery. Slipping seamlessly between her childhood and teen personas, the first-person narrative highlights the emotions and turmoil of the narrator's disconnect and her relationship with her mother. This, along with the portrayal of the gay scene in 1980s Paris and the smoldering emergence of an confident and independent Algeria, the prose transports the reader to a bygone period with veracity. Author Nina Bouraoui has penned a beautifully written novel which I assume is autobiographical. Stunning for its honesty and incite, it is an intriguing and delightful read. An enjoyable 5 stars out of 5.

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