A novel about a tortuous, obsessive affair by veteran author Texier (Victorine, 2005, etc.).
A newly divorced, nameless narrator meets Russian émigré Yuri at a carnival party. She’s 52 years old to his 30 and immediately attracted to him—sexually, at least. Her reservations about his behavior and demeanor start on their official first date, but it takes her years to heed the warnings of her first impression. Yuri constantly pushes boundaries—sexually, legally, and morally; at best, he’s controlling, and at worst, he’s abusive, even potentially murderous. The narrator mysteriously endures his moodiness, rages, and drinking binges even though, on the surface, she seems to have her life together. French by birth, she owns a large apartment in New York City, has a publishing contract, and has a loving relationship with her 8-year-old daughter, Lulu. Yuri, too, is swayed by her apparent wealth, not to mention her legal residence in the United States. He views her as his ticket to a green card, while she’s determined to keep their relationship purely physical, limited to weekends that her daughter spends with her father. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, increase his desperation and make her even more cautious, bringing their relationship to a breaking point. Texier’s novel is well-crafted and engrossing but also troubling, like watching a train wreck. It’s difficult to reconcile the narrator’s apparent intelligence and respectability with her inability to see beyond her attraction to Yuri, despite his crudeness and inexplicable bouts of anger. Yuri isn’t merely a sexy, bad boy, but, in fact, a borderline sociopath. Some readers may also be disturbed by the ethnic stereotype embodied by Yuri; the narrator, for example, often dismisses his outrageous behavior as typically Russian. Readers will also be left to wonder whether the narrator’s namelessness is a literary device or an indication that this novel isn’t entirely fiction.
An absorbing story, but some may find its subject matter off-putting.