TW: discussion of rough sexual intercourse
and hints of necrophilia
Blurb: Adèle appears to have the perfect life. A respected journalist, she lives in a flawless Parisian apartment with her surgeon husband and their young son. But beneath the veneer of ‘having of all’, Adèle is bored – and consumed by an insatiable need for sex, whatever the cost. Struggling to contain the twin forces of compulsion and desire, she begins to orchestrate her life around her one-night stands and extramarital affairs, arriving late to work and lying to her husband about where she’s been, until she becomes ensnared in a trap of her own making.
Author: Leïla Slimani
Translator: Sam Taylor
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Psychological
On the surface, Adèle has the perfect life. But what her husband doesn’t know is that she has a secret phone, full of the numbers of strange men, the messages packed with plans to meet up for the night. As Adèle becomes more unhappy with her perfect facade, her compulsions begin to get even darker. She bears bruises from interactions gone too far and all she wants is to feel something…
I picked up this book after enjoying the author’s previous release, Lullaby. I really enjoyed the writing style and was so happy to see it continued in this book. There’s less dialogue and more of an insight into the internal thoughts of the characters. This means that we get to know the characters well in a short space of time, figuring out what makes them tick. This worked brilliantly in this book as getting inside Adèle’s mind was crucial to understanding the story and how events unfold in the way they do. It also meant that I struggled to put this book down as I had to know what she would do next. Slimani always writes her characters well, they’re all realistic in the sense that they’re not perfect, they have problems just like everyone else and I like this aspect as it makes the story easier to visualise.
I would also add that, even though there are some particularly rough sexual scenes, they are all consensual. Adèle has some dark desires but, from what I could tell, she asks for things to be done to her in advance. This was important to me as a reader because the descriptions of Adèle’s body in the aftermath were intense. I suppose it satisfied my conscience a little to know that she had chosen it, however odd I personally find it.
The slightly lower rating is mostly due to some of the content in this book. There are some particularly rough scenes that had me cringing and a mention, although not graphic one, of necrophilia when Adèle goes home for her father’s funeral. Maybe it was bad timing on my part but, after losing my own dad last year, this section made me feel a little sick.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who likes more literary fiction with a particularly dark edge and doesn’t mind the content warnings that I’ve touched on here. If those are putting you off, I’d 100% recommend giving Lullaby a go first as that one is much safer reading in that regard!
Have you read this book? Or maybe you’ve read something similar? What did you think? I’d love to know!