Friday, October 06, 2006

Left Bank by Kate Muir

I read a review praising this book and subsequently put my name on the list at the library. Well known Parisian couple – a philosopher and an actress – cope with the disappearance of their child. At least that's what I thought it was about. Oh, and the actress is from Texas. I usually love a good story about a Texas girl who gets her ass out of the country and does well for herself.

That was a very misleading review. The child's disappearance, though a catalyst to the main elements of the novel, isn't nearly as dramatic as one might imagine.

This is the story of a married couple, the husband very involved in being "French" (i.e. carrying on numerous affairs because he considered it to be his obligation as a French intellectual). He's trying desperately to be Sartre. WWJPSD he asks himself anytime he faces doubt. His wife, in his mind, and hers as well for a bit, is nothing more than a lovely trophy. But eventually his wife starts to see how false and shallow her marriage is by seeing how it affects her daughter and gradually she pulls away from her husband and starts to find herself ... and as I'm describing the book I'm realizing that it could have been a great story. But it gets so bogged down with the details. The endless descriptions of the husband's favorite cheese and the nanny's erect nipples under her thin blouse and wife's red shoes against the gravel. I just skimmed through the last of the book because I wanted to find out what happened. But I didn't care enough about the characters to ever really curl up with this book and dive in.

I wanted an escape to Paris, a glimpse into the life of the intelligent and the beautiful, but it read like any other bad marriage in which the husband thinks much more of himself and his desires than those of the people who he is supposed to care about. This could have been a story about a doctor and his socialite, model wife living here in Dallas. It could have taken place anywhere. Paris doesn't have a monopoly on self-absorbed men, women in denial or bad marriages. Don't waste your time with this book.

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