8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
"switterbug" Betsey Van Horn
- Published on Amazon.com
Thomas loves Louise, a lawyer. Louise is married to Romain, a scientist. Louise loves Thomas. Yves, a writer, loves Anna. Anna, a psychiatrist, loves Yves, a man she found "unsettling." Anna is married to Stan, an ophthalmologist. Thomas is Anna's psychoanalyst. No, this isn't an LSAT logic problem or a torrid soap opera. These are the characters that comprise Le Tellier's urbane, au courant Paris comedy, a droll romp that is nevertheless intimate and complex within the playful pages. It's packed with contagious quotes that you want to spread:
"Everyone should have analysis. It should be compulsory, like military service used to be."
Or, let's say you are jealous of a woman and want to share a canny reproach with a friend:
"She sees herself as slim, lives being slim as synonymous with being rigorous. Gaining weight, she is convinced, is always a lapse."
Lots of light, saucy bon mots flash through this story, but there are small earthquakes that convulse now and then. At 228 pages and 51 short chapters (and an epilogue), most chapters are structured in pairs, such as "Thomas and Louise" and "Anna and Yves," alluding to couples, as well as Abkhazian dominoes, a game that is close to Yves' heart. "He is a writer who has readers, but not a true readership." He may obscure himself further by titling his next novel after that titular game.
Throughout the wry novel, the coupling and uncoupling of husbands, wives, and lovers overlap and cross, and sometimes meet. The themes and ideas may be common but the characters are genuine and close. The dialog is inspired, not prepared or clichéd. The prose slides creamily off the tongue, like a filled croissant, and is peppered with paradox and the double entendre, pointed aphorisms and learned allusions. And life can be turned into aphorisms, instructs Thomas to his patient, Anna, as a way of fixing life into words.
"...what attracts us about another person has had more to do with what makes them fragile...Love is kindled by the weakness we perceive, the flaw we get in through, wouldn't you say?"
There's a gravitas that manifests subtly, an accretion of observations and details that examine love from every curve and angle. You can visualize this dialog-heavy book as a film, or a play. There is no way not to compare Le Tellier to the best of Woody Allen--a little bit Lubitsch, a little bit Jewish, some Annie Hall, some Stardust Memories, a profusion of Freud. But this is French, and you will imagine that you are walking through Jardin du Luxembourg or running across the Quai des Grands Augustins on a grey, Paris day. It's eclectic, though, with American as well as other infusions. The savvy prose serves up a savory atmosphere, drifting through outdoor cafés and public squares. Some of the time, though, you are indoors, near a bookcase, and often a bed...
Cultural icons, such as François Truffaut, are included, not just as a reference, but as meaning to the story at hand. Thomas emails Louise, after they first meet, that doesn't a scene in Stolen Kisses anticipate the future of email? But the scene he shares, in detail, is the buttering of his desires.
There is even a postmodernish, double-column chapter; on one side is Yves' dry, but increasingly inventive lecture of the word "foreign," with emphasis on the fact that the French have only one word for it, l'etranger. Juxtaposed on the other side is the cuckolded Stan, seated in the back row, agonized in a stream of invective consciousness. The linguistic stunt work by the author is more than a showcase; it concludes in a probing, poignant place of alarm and discovery.
The characters in these triangular love affairs share universal elements-- sex and death, guilt and virtue, grief and ecstasy, illusion and certainty, passion and ennui. And, of course, love. But enough about love.
Eminent credit goes to Adriana Hunter for her luminous translation from the French.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Jill I. Shtulman
- Published on Amazon.com
Enough About Love is a quintessentially French novel about the vagaries and capriciousness of love. Two women - Anna and Louise - both beautiful, both married (with children) to successful and trustworthy men, uproot their lives thorough unexpected yet passionate affairs with two unusual men. Anna, married to another respected physician, falls under the spell of Yves, a writer. In the meantime, Anna's analyst, Thomas, has gotten into his own tryst with Louise, an attractive lawyer married to a much-renowned scientist named Romain.
With a structure borrowed from a game of Abkhazian dominoes - discussed briefly in one section of the book - the various characters (Anna and Louise, their husbands, and their lovers) find themselves interacting in all kinds of combinations. We see, for example, Louise with Thomas (her lover), followed by a chapter with Louise and Romain (her husband), followed by another chapter of Thomas and Romain...and so on.
There are a few chapters that stand out for their audacity and their elegance. In one of them, Yves (the author and lover of Anna) is conducting a public reading on the subject of "foreignness." In the audience is Stan (the husband) who feels like the ultimate foreigner as he puzzles why his wife would be attracted to this man and castigates himself for letting the magic slip away. The juxtaposition of these two men is displayed in a two-column "split screen", visually communicating the differences between them.
In another, Yves is signing copies of his book when a man who he presumes is Anna's husband enters the bookstore. He lectures Yves on one of the author's former books, stating, "...he also suspects she loves him because he embodies unpredictability, a sense of adventure she always longed for, but he exploits her dreams to draw her in. It's a woman thing, like Emma Bovary meeting her Rodolphe." He forces Yves to hold a mirror to himself. And, in a somewhat parallel story, Romain visits Thomas, the analyst, under an assumed name. Thomas quickly realizes to whom he's speaking and the dialogue between them becomes searingly unforgettable.
In yet a third vignette, Yves presents Anna with a book he wrote about her - Forty Memories of Anna Stein - bursting with intimacy and immediacy. As readers, we become compliant in the affair, being titillated with the passionate details.
And so, love in all its interactions is explored - married love, adulterous love, rejected love, mundane love, love that endures, love that dies out. There are many, many pithy lines and startling revelations from an author who is obviously confident and even playful in his craft.
As someone who married late in life, with an understanding of the fragility of relationships and the false euphoria of "love" flirtations, the cavalier attitude of the characters was sometimes unsettling to me. It is a testament to the power and mastery of this work that I placed my own value system aside and read on, enchanted, with no doubt in my mind that this was an intelligently-crafted, beautifully rendered work. In the end, it is a delicious read.