BETTY BLUE by Philippe Dijan

BETTY BLUE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A simple story of love found and thwarted that also becomes a remarkable journey backward: from modernist narrative resignation and ennui into full-fledged emotional engagement, complication, deepening of character and resolution--in short, a powerfully moving plot and theme, from a novelist widely admired in France. Betty ""Blue"" is a wild-eyed young waitress in a Camusesque desert town when the narrator, an unnamed 35-year-old apathetic recluse working as a handyman in a nearby bungalow settlement, falls in love with her. Betty is vibrant, sensual, and fiercely loyal to the narrator; but she is also restlessly ambitious, unwilling to be crossed, unpredictable, and (as we learn) slowly going mad. When the narrator's boss spies on him, Betty screams invective in return; when he retaliates by demanding extra work, Betty burns the bungalow settlement and takes the narrator and flees. By this time, she has learned that the narrator is something of a writer; while the two of them roam the country looking for jobs, Betty makes typewritten copies of his manuscript and sends them to a score of publishers. Soon the trouble with Betty deepens: working as a waitress again, she beats a female customer almost to death. She becomes pregnant and miscarries; she tries to kill herself. She hears voices. One bright morning, she gouges out her eye. As she descends into madness, the narrator's passion for her grows; in a thrilling and saddening sequence of scenes, he robs an armored delivery service to provide her with comforts while she is still sentient, but finds she responds not to the money, but only to his disguise, like a child. He beats a man who menaces her: he helps her to steal a child. He has assumed parts of her character into his despairing own, and they become him. In the end, before he receives word that his manuscript will be published, thanks to her, he kills her as an act of sacrifice and mercy. The transformation of character is powerful, convincing, reverberant; the love story is sad and fine.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1988
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson