The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris by Leïla Marouane (tr. Alison Anderson)

a nutshell: sharing the possibly delusionary (?) perspective of an Algerian-born, Paris-based man who decides to leave his mother’s home in search of independence, this novel continually took me by surprise

a line: “A place where, he said to me, you have come to listen to me at last”

an image: I was particularly moved by a moment when the narrator recalls his mother describing how she gave up her education & independence to marry, according to her father’s wishes, and from then on devoted herself to raising & educating her children

a thought: I may be in the minority (at least, according to Goodreads…) but I found this book fascinating & totally entertaining – I loved the ambiguity that allowed me to come to my own conclusions about the narrator’s reliability/motives

a fact: born in 1960 in Djerba, Tunisia, to a family living in exile, Marouane then lived in Biskra until she was six and in Algiers until her exile to Paris in 1991

want to read The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris? visit here

Lullaby by Leïla Slimani (tr. Sam Taylor)

Lullaby on tiled floor

a nutshell: a seemingly flawless nanny, Louise, has just killed the two young children she cherishes, and this utterly addictive novel rewinds to unravel why

a line: “Her heart has grown hard. The years have covered it in a thick, cold rind and she can barely hear it beating. Nothing moves her any more”

an image: Louise’s spiralling obsession with avoiding waste sees her dig out a gone-off chicken carcass binned by the mother and, in a distressing scene, instruct the children to scrape off the last bits of meat, washed down with big glasses of Fanta so they wouldn’t choke

a thought: as the only white nanny in the neighbourhood, Louise is an anomaly among the community of immigrant nannies who gather with the kids at the local playground;  in Slimani’s story it’s the mother, the boss, who is an immigrant

a fact: the book was inspired by the 2012 murder of two children by their nanny in New York – though it was very well received in France, it didn’t have the same reception in the US

bonus quote: Slimani says of writing: “For me, it is freedom, freedom from everything: when I write I’m not a woman, I’m not a Muslim, I’m not a Moroccan. I can reinvent myself and I can reinvent the world”

want to read Lullaby? visit here

Those Without Shadows by Françoise Sagan (tr. Irene Ash)

a nutshell: a sardonic magnifying glass on a circle of Parisians bemoaning their ill-fated romances and lack of purpose in life

a line: “Everyone is familiar with these infinitely small circumferences which love creates in the heart of a great city”

an image: Bernard’s failure to light a damp cigarette symbolises the lives of those who never know real happiness but feel it’s of no importance

a thought: I got through this slim book quickly and came away feeling downbeat and listless … a sign of success on Sagan’s part in conjuring so effectively a sense of emptiness?

a fact: I bought this vintage 1964 Penguin Books edition in The Second Shelf and had lovely conversations while there – which included learning that Sagan was just 18 when she wrote Bonjour Tristesse (a sensational novel about a hedonistic teenager’s careless antics)


want to read Those Without Shadows? visit here