Two women in the film industry, one from New York and the other from Paris, share a close friendship ruptured by trauma.
This is the third book to appear in English from French author, journalist, and film producer Halberstadt (La Petite, 2012, etc.). The narrator, Michèle, who lives in Paris, is writing to her American friend, Molly, who's suffered a brain aneurysm and is in a coma. Entwined with her reaction to her friend’s sudden and prolonged illness, she reflects on the beginning of their friendship—they bonded over absurd demands from Tom Cruise—and recalls highlights from their years of attending international film festivals together. She ruminates on her experience as a working mother and compares it to Molly’s single and singularly focused life; photos of the celebrities Molly's worked with decorate her home more prominently than snapshots of friends and family. References to “a cartoon pinup astride an atomic bomb,” Gloria Swanson's performance as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, and Elton John's singing “Candle in the Wind” at Princess Diana's funeral characterize Molly as a powerful force at risk of extinction. Molly eventually emerges from her coma, but she apparently will never get to read this account in its entirety: Michèle writes about her husband's infidelity but then excludes those pages from what she intends to show her recovering friend, adding a layer of complexity to the narrative. The adultery and Michèle’s reaction to it are described as banalities to be abhorred, just as she abhors sappy American hospital dramas. This concern with cliché is strangely at odds with prose that is peppered with stock phrases such as “blew me away,” “smokes like a chimney,” and “I stuck to my guns.” This superficial language, however, is cut by darker, more incisive imagery. In remembering the story of Pinocchio ending up in the belly of a whale, Michèle asks of Molly, “Which belly, inside which giant fish have you gotten lost?” and then answers, “But then you’re not a wooden puppet who has to pay for her lies.”
If at times the novel suffers from its slightness, its dark conclusion is astonishing in its honesty.