My Phantom Husband Hardcover – May 1 1999
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.