THE PASSION OF WOMEN by Sebastien Japrisot


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Japrisot, who has long specialized in languorous, eroticized suspense (The Sleeping-Car Murders, One Deadly Summer, etc.), offers more erotic languor and less suspense than usual in this eight-dimensional portrait of a mysterious convict on the run. As the novel begins, its hero falls to earth, dying from a gunshot wound. In a series of flashbacks featuring eight successive women he has encountered in his escape--a flight that has taken him from the coast of France to a Pacific island during wartime--the hero shows different faces, or at least different names, to each of his loves. Whether they know him as Vincent, Beau Masque, Tony, Francis, Edouard, FrÉdÉric, Maurice, or Christophe, each woman--from Emma, the young bride he kidnaps on her wedding night, to Marie-Martine, his youthful love who returns as his lawyer when he's finally recaptured by his nemesis Sgt. Malignaud--begins as his victim, gets him into her power, then falls in love with him (even though more than one confesses to shooting him). The chapters are by turns steamy and touching, but they don't generate much momentum, because although the novel comes on like Rashomon, the heroines' narratives fit together smoothly except for the contradictions between the accounts of Belinda and Zozo, two Parisian whores; certainly the hero, whatever his name is, is always himself. The solution to the mystery of who shot the hero is a letdown, but Japrisot's neatest puzzle--why are all these desirable women dreaming of romance in terms of such a narcissistic male fantasy?--is resolved by an ending that (though a bit of a cheat) is perfectly in keeping with the texture of the hero's insouciant adventures. Japrisot's lightest soufflÉ to date--a sexual odyssey whose few pretensions to depth he handles with more grace and wit than Erica Jong.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Crown