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The Woman in the Row Behind [Paperback]

Francoise Dorner

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Book Description

June 17 2006
"As an entomologist of the ways of love, [Dorner] has a rare precision . . . we devour her book, realizing that it shows the building and the destruction of a couple carried away by work and day-to-day concerns. Her story is our own, and that is why we love it."
-Paris Match


To save our marriage I tried offering him another woman. He has started fantasizing about her. He doesn't know it's me . . . and she is now destroying us.

Nina and Roger have a humdrum marriage, not helped by the pressures of their work running a newspaper kiosk on the shaded side of a busy street in Paris. Shuttling between her straight-laced husband, her selfish mother, the father she has never known, and her best friend who has—inconveniently—just split up with her brother-in-law, Nina decides one day to leaf through the girlie magazines she sells every day. She glimpses a world of pleasure and desire, and innocently believes she has found a way of rekindling something that may never have been there. As she explores her own longings and discovers how attractive she is to other men, how can she fail to win back the attention of the man she loves?

“These bitter pages—which flay both the flesh and the heart—tell the story of a love which would rather commit suicide than leave itself to die. There is no doubt [with this first novel] an author is born.”
—Elle

Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press (June 17 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590511867
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590511862
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 12.8 x 19.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 45 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,737,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The snappy, funny first novel by French playwright Dorner (awarded the Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman last year) observes the sad, sweet machinations of a bored young working-class Parisian wife. Frustrated that her new husband, Roger, no longer seems to appreciate her, Nina takes a few lessons from the porn mags stocked at the couple's sidewalk newsstand. She begins flirting with the customers and, wearing a black wig, black raincoat and heavy orchid perfume, follows her husband to the movie theater. Dorner's colloquial first-person narrative, which feels like a riff on an early '60s film starring Catherine Deneuve, also charmingly navigates Nina's dutiful relationships with her needy, possessive mother; unhappy childhood friend Gisèle; and the thick, unenlightened Roger. Moreover, Nina confronts the long, deeply scarring absence of her father, as this "invisible little woman" (as she mockingly describes herself) discovers the full flower of her femininity. As powerful feelings and further experimentation take hold, Dorner does a lovely job of showing the stakes in the marriage and its fault lines. (June 13)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Library Journal Leigh Anne Vrabel
This slim, swift read demonstrates talent and potential and will appeal to urban sophisticates looking for the latest in world fiction. An optional purchase for larger collections.

Publishers Weekly
The snappy, funny first novel by French playwright Dorner (awarded the Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman last year) observes the sad, sweet machinations of a bored young working-class Parisian wife. Dorner's colloquial first-person narrative, which feels like a riff on an early '60s film starring Catherine Deneuve, also charmingly navigates Nina's dutiful relationships with her needy, possessive mother; unhappy childhood friend Gisèle; and the thick, unenlightened Roger. As powerful feelings and further experimentation take hold, Dorner does a lovely job of showing the stakes in the marriage and its fault lines.

Kirkus Reviews
Although the story's plot is fantastical, Dorner's writing is hypnotic. Nina's voice—at turns joyless, curious, tentative and despairing—is utterly believable, and the spare descriptions of a deteriorating marriage are compelling. This is not a story about a woman's sexual awakening, nor is it a morality tale about the dangers of sexual fantasy. Rather, it is a sophisticated, stylish meditation about the unexpected connections between longing and sex, and about the impossibility of really knowing even those people to whom we are most attached. A grim, sharp-edged look at the emotional emptiness of marital intimacy.

Chicago Tribune
Fun, lighthearted debut novel about a Parisian wife whose desperate attempts to garner her husband's affections include following him in sexy disguise.

CityStyle Lori Walsh
A slim and classic summer read.

Los Angeles Times
Told in a deadpan voice ably rendered by veteran translator Adriana Hunter, Dorner's tale abounds with snappy visuals and dark situation comedy... (The Woman in the Row Behind) succeeds beautifully as tragic farce.

New York Times Andrew Ervin
A precise and thought-provoking novel of ideas wrapped in the garish trappings of chick lit....The Woman in the Row Behind is a small and sophisticated novel of big ideas, many of them extremely naughty.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely not schlocky chick-lit Sept. 2 2006
By Pamelicious - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The "official" book review states this book is funny. It definitely is not. Maybe something got lost in the translation... I don't know. What I do know is this book, even though definitely not funny, is excellent. I was hooked within the first paragraph, and could not put it down until I got to the end.

Nina's life is boring. The reader gets the impression that she does indeed love her husband, but more out of obligation than out of passion. And then all of a sudden she embarks on a very strange inner journey that leads to infidelity, but also reinvigorates her idea of her husband. Unfortunately for her, her husband doesn't play along.

The best part of the book is the glimpse the reader gets into what goes on in Nina's head as she takes this rocky path. Even though she engages in infidelity, the author writes her in such a touching and thoughtful way that readers care about Nina, and want to see her marriage survive.

Does it? Read it to find out.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too French for America? April 4 2007
By Rather Be Reading - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The best thing I can say about this book is it was a very quick read. I read it in one sitting and the only reason I finished it was because it was such a quick read. The story is sad. It's hard to care for the characters, they are not very sympathetic. The story is a glimpse into the life of an unhappy, ill-suited married couple living in Paris running a newstand. They lack any ability to communicate with each other and she ends up cheating on him physically, while he cheats mentally with her alter-ego, unbeknownst to him. Neither are happy. Nor does happiness appear on the horizon. The bottom line: Nina is in need of a good therapist. This doesn't make for happy or even interesting reading. I'll leave it to the French.

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