Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Writer Who Knows What Women Want

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Writer Who Knows What Women Want

Article excerpt

Adele by Leila Slimani trans Sam Taylor (Faber, PS12.99) Johanna Thomas-Corr QUITE the most striking thing about Leila Slimani's phenomenally successful fiction aside from the sex and murder of course is the horror with which she regards family life. In Lullaby, her international bestseller about a nanny who kills the baby and toddler in her care, infanticide is not the only taboo. The children's mother is tired of debasing herself for the sake of her husband and offspring: "They're eating me alive," she thinks.

In Adele (Slimani's first novel, newly translated), family life gets similar short shrift. It is "a dreadful punishment" from which her protagonist, a nymphomaniac mother, longs to escape. "How she wanted to vomit up those endless days of being together, cherishing one another," Slimani writes.

The 37-year-old French-Moroccan author has published here another artful, melancholy book, presenting a complex picture of modern womanhood. With shades of Madame Bovary and Gone Girl, it's the novel most likely to divide your book club this year.

Inspired by the 2012 scandal involving disgraced former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, which gripped France, Slimani examines sex addiction through the lens of a beautiful 35-yearold mother rather than a lecherous old man with a low-hanging gut though it does feature a few of those. Parisian journalist Adele Robinson is married to successful surgeon Richard, but terminally jaded by her bourgeois existence, which is "small, shabby and lacking in grandeur". She loves her toddler son, Lucien, but palms him off on whoever will have him and does the bare minimum at work, faking quotes for articles about the unrest in Tunisia. But her job at least allows her permission to travel and "invent secret rendezvous, without having to justify herself".

Slimani gives us a bit of backstory, about teenage Adele glimpsing prostitutes in Pigalle, which first aroused her fascination. …

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