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AN ACCIDENT IN AUGUST by Laurence Cossé

AN ACCIDENT IN AUGUST

By Laurence Cossé (Author) , Alison Anderson (Translator)

Pub Date: Aug. 30th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-60945-049-6
Publisher: Europa Editions

The “accident” in the title refers to the Paris crash that killed Princess Diana, but Cossé takes the unusual step of imagining the life of a woman who was putatively involved.

Louise Origan is living a life, if not of quiet desperation, then at least of self-questioning, but her life is changed dramatically when, on a night in late August 1997, a Mercedes traveling at a high rate of speed grazes her Fiat Uno and leaves her shaken. The next morning she’s even more unnerved when she discovers that the Mercedes had crashed in the Pont de l’Alma and created a media frenzy. It’s reported that a “slow-moving white Fiat Uno” had been in the vicinity of the crash, and authorities (as well as sharklike journalists) are eager to find the owner. Louise knows she doesn’t want to be involved, so she takes her car across Paris to be fixed and leaves a false name at the garage. Even after she picks the car up, she considers ditching it (literally) and leaving her flat for a while, but then the sleazy mechanic shows up with a proposal—telling her story to Paris Match for one million francs and splitting the proceeds. To ensure this happening, he kidnaps her, but she escapes, committing a serious crime in the process. Then her life becomes peripatetic, as she roams from hotel to hotel and changes her look (ironically morphing into a Diana look-alike), still haunted by the possibility that her secret will be found out. The ultimate irony plays out when she discovers that she’s one of a long line of Fiat “owners” who have wished to insinuate themselves into the pop-culture drama.

Cossé’s 2003 novel has been admirably translated, and the psychological issues she raises are telling and true.