As a knife accidentally slices into her wrist, Joséphine realizes she would be glad to simply slip away from her life.
At that moment, Joséphine understands that her husband, Antoine, will never find work. He’ll carry on with his mistress, and she’ll have to put food on the table. As a medieval historian, her financial prospects are slim. Out of the blue, her chic sister, Iris, offers her a Faustian bargain: Write a novel set in her beloved 12th century, but allow Iris to claim authorship. Joséphine will get the money, but Iris will get the fame—the spotlight has always been Iris’ preferred residence. Once a promising film student, Iris staggered everyone 10 years ago by marrying Phillipe, a staid French attorney, settling into a posh lifestyle and abandoning her ambition. So Joséphine sets to work. She's complemented by a richly drawn cast of supporting characters, including the darkly handsome Luca, whom she befriends at the library, and her haughty teenage daughter, Hortense, who alternates between disdainfully humiliating her mother and shamelessly wooing her wealthy Aunt Iris. Meanwhile, Marcel, Iris and Joséphine’s stepfather, cavorts with his beloved secretary. And below the equator, Antoine manages a crocodile farm in Kenya, where he spends his evenings gazing into their hypnotic yellow eyes, looking for the answer to his problems. An international best-seller, this is the first of Pancol’s novels to be translated into English and the first in a trilogy following Joséphine’s family.
Aside from introducing a few contrived plot twists, Pancol deftly manages the constellation of characters in a cleareyed, warmly funny tale.