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My Phantom Husband [Hardcover]

Marie Darrieussecq , Esther Allen
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1 1999
An astonishing work of fiction from France's "best young novelist" (The New Yorker), the internally acclaimed author of "Pig Tales." The premise is simple: the narrator's husband leaves to buy a loaf of bread and never returns. Like the classics By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept and Dear Diego, Marie Darrieussecq's My Phantom Husband chronicles a woman's poignant descent into madness brought on by the loss of a great love. Combining a poet's exquisite metaphors with a painter's mesmerizing visions, Darrieussecq astounds readers with her exceptional imagination and stylistic genius. Surreal yet universal in its understanding of grief, this haunting novel reminds us why the New York Times hailed this young author as "fascinating and original."

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

It was physics, the physics of the moment, and also the physics that describes the laws of memory, absence, and disappearances, explains the narrator of this small gem of a novel. Darrieussecq (Pig Tales) follows a French woman as she falls into a surrealistic gap after her realtor husband goes out for a loaf of bread and doesnt come home. At first she expects his imminent return. Then, in growing alarm, she calls the police, then her mother-in-law, her mother and her friend Jacqueline. The police are polite but evasive: runaway men, they suggest, frequently fail to return, or else return washed up on a beach, devoured by little sea animals. Darrieusecqs narrator (never named) goes through the motions of her daily life, muses on her failure to be a caring and fruitful wife, and enters a suspended animation born of waiting. Like rising waters, her unconscious floods her life with vivid sea images and life simplified almost to cells breaking: from now on anything was possible, eclipses, poltergeists, the projection of black holes even into private domiciles. She returns to a sort of sanity through the strong, healing touch of a Youangui masseuse. After more enticingly fluid digressions on the nature of consciousness, and on the unavoidable distance between any two people (even lovers), the husband returns: what will she do now? Tender, extraordinarily nuanced and very French, this novel looks at the world of love like a drop of rainwater under a microscope. Allens translation produces sinuous, intricate sentences, fitting for the shifting dimensions of erotic phenomenology and gentle tragedy that this intense, essayistic novel inhabits.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This second novel by Paris native Darrieussecq (Pig Tales, LJ 3/15/97) is a short, intense inner monolog written after the narrator has accepted the abrupt disappearance of her husband. Through it we experience the narrator's complete disorientation as the finality of her husband's departure and its ramifications become apparent. The disappearance unearths her grief at the previous losses of her father and prematurely born children. The shock of this new degree of isolation throws the narrator into a state of heightened sensitivity, causing her to experience sound, colors, and physical sensations to a surreal degree, almost as though she were living in several dimensions at once. Although this might signify insanity, the narrator always seems to be aware of what is around her and what she is doing. Darrieussecq weaves humorous passages into this essentially tragic novel, giving her narrator a depth of character beyond that of a mere figure of pity. This compelling work is highly recommended for larger public and all academic libraries.ARebecca A. Stuhr, Grinnell Coll. Libs., IA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Genius or Gibberish? June 27 2002
Format:Hardcover
Is this a brilliant work of fiction or 150 pages of gibberish? This little book can be a tough read. Is it because of its French origin and something is lost in the translation (the French are so different from us), or is it because as a man reading it I missed the point of the female writers nuances? I have not decided yet. From the description on the cover I was expecting the story of a desparate search for a missing person. But the action (if you could call it action) takes place in the narrators fractured mind, and half way through the book you begin to question if there ever was a husband. Maybe a second reading would bring more insight into the character. If you are looking for a book with a good plot, action, dialogue and character development, look elsewhere.
Was this review helpful to you?
4.0 out of 5 stars one stiff novel to read April 26 2000
Format:Hardcover
As a matter of fact,this is not a very interesting book for all readers.(pig tale would be an entertaining one).On account of the fact that in this story,lengthy part was utililised by the author to portray the transformation of the mind of the wife whose husband has been missing. At the very beginning,she's so extremely worried about her husband.But then she became anguished,disgruntled,and even had some visions not real after she realised she can't find out where her husband is.As everyone knows,it's more unbearable to us to be abandonned by our close relatives than to know they were dead,and this reflects the reality too.To be honest,you may get bored by reading this story.However,great chance upon us contemplating the purpose of our existence.
Was this review helpful to you?
4.0 out of 5 stars one stiff novel to read April 26 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
As a matter of fact,this is not a very interesting book for all readers.(pig tales would be an entertaining one).On account of the fact that in this story,lengthy part was utililised by the author to portray the transformation of the mind of the wife whose husband has been missing. At the very beginning,she's so extremely worried about her husband.But then she became anguished,disgruntled,and even had some visions not real after she realised she can't find out where her husband is.As everyone knows,it's more unbearable to us to be abandonned by our close relatives than to know they were dead,and this reflects the reality too.To be honest,you may get bored by reading this story.However,great chance upon us contemplating the purpose of our existence.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Novel of Interior Space April 3 2012
By las cosas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The narrator's husband returns from the office and, as usual, the narrator failed to buy a baguette for their dinner. "The nearest bakery is on the other side of the boulevard: it takes forever to cross." So, as usual, off goes the husband to buy the missing bread. Down the five flights of stairs, across that boulevard... While she waits, our narrator calls her mother, warning her that, as usual, she will need to hang-up the phone when he returns. But instead, her mother eventually hangs up, and the narrator realizes that her husband is delayed, is seriously delayed. And eventually she acknowledges that he is missing.

Nothing else really happens in the book, yet it is filled with the ruminations of our narrator as she attempts to live with the consequences of this event. In the endless hours of the ensuing days her mind ventures far and wide in an attempt to accept, understand, internalize the enormity of this event, this new void in her life. "But the space he left empty, a yawning hole in the universe, and that was the scandal that no law known to me could describe, make up for, or punish."

The only characters in the book besides the narrator are her best-friend, mother and mother-in-law. The last of these is unable to fathom the disappearance of her beloved only son, and this hurt and betrayal is focused on our narrator in a manner neither fully understand. This event has thrown them together, and apart. So the only other people to intersect the life of our narrator are her mother and best friend. Both grow tired of the narrator's remoteness and essentially order her to get on with her life. She hears and understands their commands, but is untouched by them. She is simply waiting, outside the events of everyday life, living instead within the confines of her brain. "Waiting - for what? A sugar cube, my walk, someone to pat me with an outstretched hand?" They are vibrant with everyday life, she is adrift in an interior world which does not intersect with the efficiency of these two women. "I was a graft of monkey and dog, no longer able to arch my back enough to hoist myself above the chimeras."

This interior world is lyrically described, but then she anchors the story with a few facts, they simply don't add up. The husband is a real estate broker for new developments who despite simply leaving one day without a single trace has an office that continues to function without him, and continues to bring in more than sufficient amounts of money...all this without employees. That level of the novel, though relatively inconsequential, simply isn't believable. But in general the author does an excellent job of exploring a mind set adrift by events.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Genius or Gibberish? June 27 2002
By Bookster - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Is this a brilliant work of fiction or 150 pages of gibberish? This little book can be a tough read. Is it because of its French origin and something is lost in the translation (the French are so different from us), or is it because as a man reading it I missed the point of the female writers nuances? I have not decided yet. From the description on the cover I was expecting the story of a desparate search for a missing person. But the action (if you could call it action) takes place in the narrators fractured mind, and half way through the book you begin to question if there ever was a husband. Maybe a second reading would bring more insight into the character. If you are looking for a book with a good plot, action, dialogue and character development, look elsewhere.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars one stiff novel to read April 26 2000
By "teddylan" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As a matter of fact,this is not a very interesting book for all readers.(pig tale would be an entertaining one).On account of the fact that in this story,lengthy part was utililised by the author to portray the transformation of the mind of the wife whose husband has been missing. At the very beginning,she's so extremely worried about her husband.But then she became anguished,disgruntled,and even had some visions not real after she realised she can't find out where her husband is.As everyone knows,it's more unbearable to us to be abandonned by our close relatives than to know they were dead,and this reflects the reality too.To be honest,you may get bored by reading this story.However,great chance upon us contemplating the purpose of our existence.
0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars one stiff novel to read April 26 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As a matter of fact,this is not a very interesting book for all readers.(pig tales would be an entertaining one).On account of the fact that in this story,lengthy part was utililised by the author to portray the transformation of the mind of the wife whose husband has been missing. At the very beginning,she's so extremely worried about her husband.But then she became anguished,disgruntled,and even had some visions not real after she realised she can't find out where her husband is.As everyone knows,it's more unbearable to us to be abandonned by our close relatives than to know they were dead,and this reflects the reality too.To be honest,you may get bored by reading this story.However,great chance upon us contemplating the purpose of our existence.
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