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Vertigo Paperback – May 8 1997

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Paperback, May 8 1997
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (May 8 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747531870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747531876
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 1.1 x 12.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 141 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #836,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


This story of obsession, deceit and human frailty has an almost overpowering intensity... Alongside Patricia Highsmith Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac deserve recognition as part of the great tradition of chilling psychological crime fiction. Crime Fiction Lover Makes a fascinating companion to the Hitchcock film, and is, I think, an amazing book in its own right Lit Love Gallic noir at its most psychologically acute Crime Scene A fantastic book Col's Criminal Library One of the pleasures of reading the book is noting how it compares with, and in places even improves on, the film The National --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Pierre Boileau (1906-89) and Thomas Narcejac (1908-98) are two of  the most celebrated names in French crime fiction. Together they collaborated on more than forty thrillers, most notably Vertigo and She Who Was No More, turned into classics of noir cinema by Alfred Hitchcock and Henri-Georges Clouzot respectively. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
The Original Story July 12 2011
By Tom S. - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Vertigo (Universal Legacy Series) is my favorite Hitchcock film, and one of my favorite films, period. I watched it again recently, and I was interested to see how the film adaptation compared to the original. So I looked on Amazon and found a used copy of a British edition of the novel, and it's fascinating.

French writers Thomas Narcejac and Pierre Boileau wrote several mysteries together back in the 1950s, and two of them became famous movies, DIABOLIQUE and VERTIGO. They specialized in twisty plots and surprise endings, with morally ambiguous characters and lots of mood and atmosphere. The original novel of VERTIGO, D'ENTRE LES MORTES (From Among the Dead), is set in Paris, not San Francisco, and the surprise ending is quite different from Hitchcock's. It's actually a better ending, but the film censors in the '50s would never have allowed Hitchcock to use it. It's interesting to note all the ways the original and the film compare and contrast. If you're a Hitchcock fan like me, find a copy of the novel and see for yourself. It's excellent.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Great Twists and Turns Sept. 16 2007
By KR - Published on
Format: Paperback
Whenever I see a film that I really enjoy, I immediately want to read the book. My library had a copy of this book, and I just finished reading it. While some parts are on the slow side, it really is a great read. In fact, the book is probably even better if you don't know the plot through the film. There are several differences between the film and book. The book is set in France, and the ending of the book differs just a bit.
Give the authors of the book credit- while the film is wonderful due to the performances and direction, you can't discount how clever the plot is. It's a shame that this book is not more widely available.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
From among the dead... Sept. 17 2015
By FictionFan - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
As Paris waits uneasily for war to begin, Roger Flavières is approached by an old college friend, Gévigne, who puts an odd proposition to him. Gévigne is concerned about his wife, Madeleine. She has been lapsing into odd silences, almost trances, and seems bewildered when she comes out of them. Gévigne knows she's been going out during the afternoons but she says she hasn't – either she is lying, which Gévigne doesn't believe, or she has forgotten. Gévigne wants Flavières to follow her, partly to find out what she's doing and partly to make sure she is safe. Flavières assumes she is having an affair, but eventually agrees to Gévigne's request. But a few days later, Madeleine steps quietly into the river and Flavières has to rescue her – a meeting that leads to him developing a strange obsession for her, which he calls love.

This is, of course, the book on which the famous Hitchcock film is based, a film I have always admired more than enjoyed, partly because I'm not a huge fan of Kim Novak. The plot is very similar to the book, though Hitchcock has changed the emphasis to make more of the vertigo aspect. Apparently the book was originally called D'entre les morts (From Among the Dead), and this is a much more apt title. Flavières does suffer from vertigo and this was the cause of him being indirectly responsible for the death of his partner when he worked for the police, and also provides a crucial plot point later on in the book. But the focus of the book is much more on the breakdown of Flavières' hold on reality as he comes to believe that Madeleine has the ability to return, like Eurydice, from the dead.

The book is set in wartime, with the first section taking place in Paris just as the war is beginning and the second part four years later in Marseilles as it is heading towards its end. This gives a feeling of disruption and displacement which is entirely missing from the film, set as it is in peacetime America. It is impossible for Flavières to track Madeleine's past because records have been destroyed, and people are constantly on the move, both physically and socially, as black marketeers and weapons manufacturers grow wealthy and those who can, leave the parts of France most affected by war. Flavières failed the medical for the army, for reasons left deliberately rather vague, and feels he is despised by strangers who see an apparently fit man avoiding service.

Another major difference is that in the book Flavières is a loner – or, at least, alone. He appears to have no friends and gets no fulfilment from his job as a lawyer. In the film, Scottie Ferguson (the Flavières character) has a devoted friend in Midge Wood, and is an all-round decent chap, although guilt-ridden. Flavières is not a decent chap! He is a weak man, pitiable almost, whose obsession with Madeleine seems like an extension of an already unstable mental state rather than the cause of it. As the book progresses, he steadily disintegrates, and his behaviour becomes ever more disturbing and crueller towards Madeleine for not admitting to being who he thinks she is.

The book is very well written, and well translated for the most part, although with an annoying tendency to leave some phrases untranslated, such as names of paintings or institutions, meaning I had to resort to Google from time to time to catch a nuance that a translation would have made clear. Apparently, according to the notes in the book, Boileau and Narcejac wanted to create a new style of mystery, away from the standard fare of whodunnits and hard-boileds, putting the victim at the centre of the plot. Boileau was responsible for coming up with the plots while Narcejac created the characterisations. In my view, a partnership that worked brilliantly – the plot of this is fiendishly complex, and Flavières' character is a wonderful study of the effect of obsession on a weak mind. Overall I thought it was much darker than the film, mainly because Flavières may be a victim but there is no attempt to make him out as a good guy - an example of how to write an unlikeable character in such a way as to make him fascinating. The beginning is somewhat slow but I suspect that may be because I knew the plot from the film. As it begins to diverge in the second half I found it completely riveting as it drove inexorably towards its darkly satisfying ending.

Unusually for a Hitchcock film, I think the book actually delves more deeply into the psychology and makes it more credible. Hitchcock's decision to elevate the importance of the vertigo aspects somehow makes his Ferguson a less complex and intriguing character than Boileau-Narcejac's Flavières. And the ending of the book is much more satisfying than that of the film. For once, despite my abiding love for Mr Hitchcock, on this occasion the victory goes to the book!

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Pushkin Press.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Socorro E. Crabb - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I must say that I expected the book to have a more in depth description of the root of the obsession in the man's mind over this woman he knows nothing about, but I was not prepared for the ending. Definitely worth reading if for nothing else to compare it to Alfred Hitchocks's masterpiece of suspense and obsession. I ended up so satisfied that I saw the movie first. It was a deeper look into John's obsession and his need to control the uncontrollable. Men, take heart, not many men are capable of such extremes in feeling and pursuit of "love at first sight."
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Vertigo, orignal book Oct. 3 2010
By Howard E. Borck - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the English translation of the French book that Hitchcock's movie is based on. Great book. Although book has no reference to movie, if you love this film, the book will enhance and provide background information not found in the film. A man possessed with an illusion (or delusion if you will) chasing after romance...fixated, addictive when madly in love. Until recently this book was very difficult to obtain except in 1950s paperback edition which was usually damaged and frail.