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Nothing Serious [Paperback]

Justine Levy , Charlotte Mandell

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Book Description

Oct. 1 2005

One of the edgiest and most innovative novels to come out of Europe in years-not to mention one of the most scandalous and successful-this thinly veiled roman-à-clef is about the daughter of one of Europe's most famous writers as she navigates life after the collapse of her marriage.

It is a penetrating, sometimes funny, sometimes enraged look at pain in the limelight, where a glamorous, privileged world offers no protection for shattered heroine Louise. Deserted by her famous husband-the man she has loved since they were children-when he falls for a model-turned-rock star, she is unmoored in a world that suddenly has no meaning for her. And as her life implodes, one misfortune seems to follow another-her grandmother dies, her mother develops cancer, and there is always the question: Why did Adrien leave?

Based on some of Europe's most glamorous real-life stars-including Bernard-Henri Lévy and Carla Bruni, Mick Jagger's ex-Justine Lévy captures the world of the "beautiful people" with lacerating relish, as well as humor and a wonderfully poetic eye for detail. In the end, narrator Louise spares no one-and especially not herself-from her ruthless and ultimately energizing honesty.

Nothing Serious is a stylish work of blazing intelligence and won universal praise from critics upon its release in Europe, selling over 200,000 copies.

Justine Lévy's first novel, The Rendezvous, was hailed by the The New York Times as "devastating," and Library Journal called it "irresistible." Lévy is an editor at Editions Plon, one of France's leading publishing houses, and she is the daughter of the famous philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy. She lives in Paris.

Charlotte Mandell, winner of the Modern Language Association Prize, has translated Jean Genet, Bernard-Henri Lévy, and Gustav Flaubert.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (Oct. 1 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0976140772
  • ISBN-13: 978-0976140771
  • Product Dimensions: 18.9 x 14.2 x 1.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #811,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

When Louise's husband, Adrien, leaves her for his father's lover, Paula, a surgically enhanced model, the troubled young Parisian editor finds the joy has been sucked out of her life. The daughter of Bernard-Henri Lévy, the author (The Rendezvous) evokes the misery of heartache and unsentimentally conveys her protagonist's hollow sense of desolation in stylized, fragmentary prose. ("Into the trash with all secondhand pre-used words, it's like my heart, and my body, they're also secondhand, they've also loved, suffered, so what?") As the narrative progresses, seamlessly moving between the present and Louise's recollections of her fraught marriage, she slowly begins to see Adrien for the belittling, controlling and vain miscreant he was during their time together. Adding to the list of Louise's sorrows is the death of her beloved grandmother as well as the long-undetected cancer threatening her mother's life, but romance with Pablo, a devoted Spaniard, buoys her spirits. A delicious cynicism creeps onto every page as Louise recounts her dysfunctional marriage, her addiction to amphetamines and battles with low self-esteem. Lévy's memorable if neurotic protagonist proves loveable despite her many flaws, and the novel is distinguished by that particularly intriguing brand of French fatalism. (Oct. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“A sensation in France last year, this novel from Lévy manages the impossible, combining the plot of a made-for-TV-movie with language worthy of a feminist philosopher-poet.... this beautifully written novel deserves attention.... Lévy’s prose is luminous and the novel is a marvel of construction.”
—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

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Amazon.com: 3.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading for more than Carla Bruni's depiction... May 23 2008
By Laurence Jarvik - Published on Amazon.com
I just had to read Nothing Serious when heard that Carla Bruni--wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy--was one of the characters depicted by Justine Levy in fictional form. I finally had a chance, thanks to the kindness of Melville House publishing chief Dennis Loy Johnson, who sent me a review copy--which, by the way, has a beautiful paperback binding, with helpful end flaps that can be used as bookmarks, real class...

As for the novel, of the confessional genre, I can report that it is really not too bad, especially for a 20-something. Better than the "girls of Knopf" sort of memoirs-cum-novels that appeared a few years ago. Not great literature, but worth reading if one's expectations are not too high.

Nothing Serious is not actually much about Carla Bruni, although she does appear as a Wicked Witch of the West-type husband-stealing predator who pops up episodically throughout the story. The main storyline, however, is a coming-of-age tale for a young French woman coming to terms with the death of her grandmother. It is a journey of self-discovery, complete with tales of infidelity and drug and alcohol abuse that ends in a French rehab center (where apparently the French health system allows stays of up to one year). Included in this roman-a-clef are vignettes of famous French philosophers like the author's father, Bernard Henry-Levy.

While not great literature, and geared more towards female "chick-lit" audiences than male readers, it does give a sense of what has happened to Europe, culturally. Blue jeans, drugs, sex, rock and roll seem to have replaced philosophical discussions about the meaning of life, more "Sex and the City" than "The Second Sex," although Levy gives philosophy a shot in the end, when she reveals the moral of her story:

Life is a rough draft, in the end. Every story is a rough draft of the next one, you cross out, you cross out, and when it's almost right and without any misprints, it's over, all that's left is to leave, that's why life is long. Nothing serious.
It would be nice to see Levy expand upon this concept in future. She may have something serious to say, but she hasn't said it yet. In a sense, Nothing Serious is a rough draft, holding out the promise of perhaps more serious work to come...
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars indulgent, depraved, redemptive Jan. 18 2006
By gitc - Published on Amazon.com
justine levy takes us from the pits of hell, spins us around a couple of times, and spits us back out. refreshing in its strong female narrative, utterly indulgent in its darkness, but wonderfully redemptive in its transformations. i was surprised to read such an insightful ending to the novel. like an uncensored journal, it is raw and honest. worth the read.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rambling, but readable, and an interesting look at first love. Dec 23 2006
By Kharabella - Published on Amazon.com
NOTHING SERIOUS reads mostly like a a journal, or a incredibly long, often incohesive and random stream of thought. The novel is more about what and how the character Louise Levy thinks and how she experiences and interprets the world than about any particular events. In fact, the basic events of the plot are revealed pretty early, although perhaps out of sequence, and the story holds no real surprises. I was only so interested in Justine/Louise's mania, (though I was relieved when she seemed to figure it all out) so it took me a while to finish the book. I put it aside often to read something more interesting. I also think that the prose of this novel just does not work as well in English. The writing style is palatable in French, and is mostly annoying in English.

The story itself -- I think that it could be told just fine through an long literary essay. As it book, it just seems to belabor the point.
6 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More than you want to know about the writer's life March 18 2006
By Michel Baudin - Published on Amazon.com
Presenting obviously autobiographical information as fiction is both indiscreet and unfair. It is indiscreet because the "characters" in this "fiction" had a legitimate expectation that their private interactions with Justine Levy would stay that way. It is unfair because they can't defend themselves against unflattering portrayals of themselves in fiction.

In spite of being unseemly airing of family dirty linen, or perhaps because of it, this book is passable airplane reading. To her credit, the author attempts neither to make her alter ego attractive nor to portray the husband who leaves her in too harsh a light. In fact, by the end of the book, I found myself wondering how he put up with her for so long.

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