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APOCALYPSE BABY by Virginie Despentes


by Virginie Despentes ; translated by Siân Reynolds

Pub Date: April 14th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-55861-891-6
Publisher: Feminist Press

Structured like a classic noir, this French novel exposes the rotten core of contemporary European society through the perspectives of several female characters.

When she loses track of Valentine, the rich teenager she's been hired to follow, Parisian private eye Lucie Toledo makes contact with the Hyena, an aggressive lesbian freelance investigator, and they travel from Paris to Barcelona (and back again) in their search, encountering orgies, nuns and repressed housewives along the way. Despentes’ (King Kong Theory, 2010, etc.) novel was first published in France in 2010 and is being translated into English for the first time. There are classic elements of noir—the PI, the femme fatale, the family full of secrets and repression, the chance encounter with a lover who might just save the damaged hero(ine). And in many ways, these are the elements that most succeed; within these familiar tropes, Despentes explores deeply flawed but interesting characters; the limits of traditional female roles; the ravages of the European class system; the challenge of Internet control; and the destructive self-indulgence of a youth culture that lacks its own deeply held beliefs and is, as such, easily manipulated by the darkest authority. But the climax of the novel sends the dense, exaggerated narrative fully off the rails. The dystopian final chapter wants to inhabit the world of science fiction rather than noir, and the genre clash leaves a rather unsatisfactory taste behind.

Powerful and empowered to a point, but this could have used sharper editing.