For a while I have been feeling a little restless, wanting to read something that’s different from the books that I normally choose. It’s hard to break out from patterns of your own making, but I really wanted to. I’d seen Adele in my local bookstore a few times and although it matched such criteria, it just didn’t sound particularly appealing either. I dismissed it as a bored housewife/sex book, which although they have their place, certainly wasn’t what I was looking for. All I can say now, is that I was wrong.
As part of my morning ritual, I listen to the news on the BBC World Service. It’s one of those habits from home that I just can’t give up. On this particular morning, I was getting dressed a little later and so the news switched over to HardTALK, which in my opinion is always worth a listen. Leila Slimani was being interviewed and my interest was piqued.
There’s a lot that I hadn’t appreciated when I first saw the cover of Adele, out of focus and provocative, and one of those things was that Slimani is not just a novelist but acts as a French cultural ambassador on behalf of Emmanuel Macron. In my mind this meant that there had to be something more to this novel than just sex and boredom and I was right.
Adele is a beautiful woman curiously devoid of emotion. She has all the trappings of success but none of the fulfilment that should come with it. She is married to a successful surgeon with whom she has a young son. They live in a beautiful apartment and she has a career as a journalist. The problem is that she feels utterly empty and so uses sex as a tool to lose herself, to be annihilated in meaningless abandon. A second problem is that this in itself doesn’t work.
I simply devoured this book. Certainly there is plenty of sex, but it’s not titillating in the way that you might have found Fifty Shades of Grey. This is desperate, sad and at times harmful. It’s not a salacious read in the way you might expect, largely because the character and emptiness of Adele is so captivating. All the time you wonder if she can or will stop this addictive pattern and are such base behaviours something that anyone of us can control or, perhaps more pertinently, hide indefinitely?
Don’t be a prude. Give Adele a try.