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This Is Not Who We Are

24 May 2022

Sophie Buchaillard

Debut novel for Creative writing rising star

Creative writing MA alumna and tutor Sophie Buchaillard is set to publish her first novel ahead of graduating this summer.

Inspired by a personal encounter in childhood, This Is Not Who We Are is the thought-provoking narrative of two women from vastly different perspectives who share a moment in time. This gripping debut explores how our collective history affects us as individuals and the long-term impact on families of migration brought on by traumatic events.

April 1994. The plane of the President of Rwanda is shot down over Kigali. His murder sparks the mass extermination of 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu by extremists Hutu, over a 100-day period.

This Is Not Who We Are is the story of two women, Iris who is French and Victoria who is Rwandan. In 1994, they are childhood pen friends. In her letters, Iris, the daughter of a government official, tells Victoria about life in Paris. Meanwhile, Victoria, who was forced to flee Rwanda with her brothers, is in the refugee camp of Goma (Zaïre). One day Victoria’s letters stop. Iris only knows she has been moved.

London, 2014. Journalist and new mother Iris pitches a story to her editor about investigating what might have happened to Victoria. On a journey of discovery, things emerge that make her question her own past. Was her father somehow involved in the genocide? Are her childhood memories more fiction than fact? Why is she looking for Victoria, really?

For Victoria, the last twenty years have been ones of migration: Goma - Paris - London. Starting a new life with her youngest brother, she leaves the past behind. Or so she thinks until she is suddenly confronted with the decision to reconnect with her genocide-supporting middle brother.

Penarth-based Sophie (MA Creative Writing, 2020) is in the early stages of her PhD in Creative writing, at the acclaimed department at the School of English, Communication and Philosophy.

Sophie said: “The MA Creative Writing degree at Cardiff gave me access to a supportive community of writers who provided invaluable advice and feedback on my journey to becoming a published author. I am looking forward to celebrating this summer and to the launch of the novel in the Pier at Penarth.

Sophie’s supervisor, award-winning writer Richard Gwyn, said:

Sophie Buchaillard’s novel is a stark and terrifying reminder that only the most fragile screen separates the familiar from the abyss, the comforts of home from the most obscene and extreme violence. It is an elegant and sombre reflection on what it means to retain one’s humanity in the face of a brutal and dehumanising cataclysm.”

This Is Not Who We Are by Sophie Buchaillard is published by Seren Books, out 13 June.

Her travel writing features in the new collection An Open Door: New Travel Writing for A Precarious Century, edited by Steven Lovatt and published by Parthian.

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