Elle
PublisherPoint Blank
Date Published25 May 2017
 
 
ISBN-10178607303X
ISBN-13978-1786073037
Formatpaperback
Pages208
Price£ 8.99

Elle

by Philippe Djian (translated by Michael Katims)

Michelle has been raped and knows that the incident should have upset her more than it did, but she has other problems, both personal and work-related, and has to find a way to cope with them.


Review

In the very first sentence, Michelle tells us that she had scraped her cheek when she fell and it is not very long before we are told the reason for the fall. When we learn what it was – she has been raped – we begin to wonder how she can remain so calm, but it soon becomes obvious that she has a number of other problems.

She is recently divorced and does not get on well with her ex, who accuses her of having refused him help in his career of screenwriter when she could easily have done so. Her mother, now in her 70s, has taken up with a much younger man and in Michelle’s view is making herself look ridiculous. Her relationship with her father is non-existent, though the grim reason for this is not immediately revealed. Adding to her familial difficulties is the fact that she cannot get on with her son who has a serious relationship with a pregnant young woman. The fact that the child is not his does not seem to concern him at all – an attitude that Michelle finds incomprehensible.

She is also carrying on an affair with a married man to which she is not really committed and which would have serious consequences for her were it to become known. Only her fierce independence and determination to stay strong enable her to carry on, in spite of her absurd mother, jealous lover and ungrateful son. Then, to add to her problems, she begins to receive text messages from someone she is desperately trying to forget. The only comforting aspect of her life is her abiding friendship with Anna, with whom she owns a thriving video game business.

Then into her life comes Patrick, a man she had never previously known very well, in spite of his being a close neighbour. She cannot account for the strange effect that a brief acquaintance with him has, but she finds herself constantly thinking about him and hiding behind a bedroom curtain to spy on him. There is something about him that she recognises but can’t say what. When she finds out what it is she cannot believe the effect it has on her but it begins to dominate her life.

For most of its length it could be said that nothing of any consequence happens in this novel but there is no denying the insight the author shows into the intricacies of human behaviour, particularly when things are going wrong. This is especially true in his portrait of Michelle, whose independence, strong-mindedness and insistence on having her say have to be admired. When she begins to realise that she is entering unknown territory she remains true to herself and has no regrets, though the world might condemn. She is a totally absorbing character.

Reviewed 02 September 2017 by Arnold Taylor