A sex-obsessed woman spirals out of control in this artful, edgy novel.
On paper, 35-year-old Adèle Robinson has it all: a successful husband, a healthy child, a beautiful Parisian apartment, and a promising career as a newspaper journalist. In reality, though, her nine-year marriage to gastroenterologist Richard is less passionate than perfunctory, her young son, Lucien, is a burden, and she fakes her way through work by fabricating quotes and plagiarizing other reporters. Adèle’s sole ambition in life is to be wanted, and the only thing that fulfills her desire is illicit sex. Adèle has slept with countless men, from strangers to co-workers to her best friend’s boyfriend. She knows that she should quit, but every time she tries to remain faithful to Richard, she fails, and each new relapse is more debauched than the last. Can Adèle master her urges, or will she lose everything in her quest to “fill” herself? Slimani’s staccato, present-tense prose fosters agitation and unease, while the narrative’s third-person perspective lends the tale a voyeuristic air. Although some of the secondary characters lack depth, Adèle has it in spades; singularly unlikable but eminently relatable, her actions are considered taboo, but the ennui and anxiety from which they stem are universal. The book’s denouement may frustrate readers—but then, that rather seems the point.
Franco-Moroccan author Slimani (The Perfect Nanny, 2018) delivers an unflinching exploration of female self-sacrifice and the elusive nature of satisfaction.