A hospital stay and morphine drip after a horrendous accident make for an arresting, erotic reverie in this Canadian author’s first.
Who knew hospitals could make a person so horny? Narrator Vivienne Yellow is already in a Paris hospital when the story opens, after having her leg smashed in several places by a truck. Lying in a morphine-induced haze, she drifts through her life—concentrating on the sexual side of things. Only daughter to a womanizing, world-famous naturalist, Vivienne grew up on the road, trekking with her father to the far corners of the world, looking for little-known flora and fauna to catalogue and celebrate. Vivienne emulated his rootless and endlessly promiscuous life, travelling incessantly and racking up an impressive roster of lovers the world over. Things began to come apart for her, though, when she met Ralph, another well-known travelling naturalist, and fell recklessly, desperately in love. Mind, Vivienne’s marriage to another didn’t keep her from continuing her quest for new, disposable lovers; if anything, it accelerated it: “Love came hard for me and was too strange. Must have slept with twenty different men in the first few months of our marriage just to calm myself down.” But, now, the adultery fails to cure her feverish love for Ralph, and Vivienne’s furious jealousy is ignited when she realizes the extent of Ralph’s extracurricular love life. Brian whips all of these elements together and scatters them in a nonchronological fashion throughout the book, leavening Vivienne’s memories with the far-less interesting details of her relationship with wardmate Sonia, “a teenage boarding-school escapee with heart palpitations.” Even if Brian unfortunately distills Vivienne’s life down to a daughter’s clichéd chase after her father’s fleeting form, the poignancy of her language makes the story shine like something new.
Relentless in its intimacy, feverish and yet clinical in its examination of love and lust: a gorgeous solitary romance.