In 1963, Annie Ernaux, twenty-three and unattached, realizes she is pregnant. Shame arises in her like a plague: Understanding that her pregnancy will mark her and her family as social failures, she knows she cannot keep the child. In a France where abortion was illegal, she attempted, in vain, to self-administer the abortion with a knitting needle. Fearful and desperate, she finally located an abortionist and ended up in a hospital emergency ward where she nearly died. In Happening, Ernaux sifts through her memories and her journal entries dating from those days. Clearly, cleanly, she gleans the meanings of her experience.