She studied literature and initially became a French and Latin teacher before turning to journalism. While working for Paris-Match and Cosmopolitan , she was noticed by an intuitive publisher who encouraged her to begin writing fiction. Influenced by the American way of life, her style became more fast-paced and eventful. Pancol is admired for her insights into human psychology, particularly women, and her sense of detail is often shaded with wry humor. Her works tend to have an uplifting theme while entertaining, and have been immensely successful commercially. One of her goals is to inspire women to dare to be themselves while keeping a positive relationship with life itself.
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Shelves: tough-women , contemporary-literature , chiclit , humor I was listening to "Fresh Air" on NPR recently, as I often do in the morning, when one of their regular book reviewers started talking about this book. She went on about how it had been a best seller in France and had been translated into several different languages and had finally made it into English, translated by William Rodarmor and Helen Dickinson.
She raved so about the book that I decided to put it on my TBR list, even though I knew nothing about the author. Indeed, I had never heard of I was listening to "Fresh Air" on NPR recently, as I often do in the morning, when one of their regular book reviewers started talking about this book.
Indeed, I had never heard of Katherine Pancol. We have the drab something housewife who is deserted by her dolt of a husband, who runs off with his mistress to Kenya where he plans to become rich raising crocodiles, but not before emptying their joint bank account and taking out a loan for which the wife has naively co-signed. The naive wife is left to raise two daughters on her own. The older daughter is a thorough-going teenage brat who delights in tormenting her mother.
The younger daughter is a sweet and sensitive child. In order to take care of the family, the drab housewife has to pinch pennies and take odd jobs. Nothing really new about that - she had been doing it for at least a year since her now-absent husband had lost his job and refused to find another.
This housewife, Josephine Jo Cortes, starts out as an authentic drudge, but she is not without resources, one of which is her intelligence and her scholarship. She is a scholar of medieval history, particularly of 12th-century literature and that allows her to earn a meager living tutoring and translating.
She has a beautiful older sister, Iris, in whose shadow she has lived for her entire life. Iris is married to a successful lawyer with whom she has a son, but she is really doing nothing. Her life is all blather and bravado and she is bored beyond tears. She suggests that shy and retiring Jo write a historical novel set in the 12th-century and beautiful and charismatic Iris will pretend to be the author and will do all the interviews and book tours that are required of an author trying to sell a book.
Iris will get all the glory and Jo will get all the money. As soon as Jo agrees to this, the reader suspects that things are not going to go exactly as planned, but, in fact, things proceed swimmingly for a while. Then the book becomes the literary sensation of the year! Did I mention that all of this takes place in Paris and its environs?
Yes, Katherine Pancol is a French writer and this novel seems very French in its conception and outlook. There are just a few quibbles with the story or maybe with the translation.
For example, in Kenya one Christmas, the absconding husband and his mistress are unable to find turkey for their dinner so that have "wapiti. But it seems to me that if there is one thing less likely to be found in Kenya than turkey, it might be elk meat. Also, the ending of the tale, as often happens, seemed a bit contrived in order to tie up all the loose strings. But I can barely even bring myself to mention any complaints, because the truth is I loved this book! Once I got a few pages into it, I could hardly put it down.
This was the first of at least three books featuring these characters. In this case it appears to have been an actual GoodReads giveaway. Despite that slight misalignment, I found this book pretty delightful. After 40 pages I came up short and found I had no clue who all these people were so I went back through those pages and made a nice tidy relationship diagram of who slept with whom and who was previously dating whom and which characters were, in fact, screwing like rabbits in the back storeroom.
Of all these there are many examples. The intrigues were entertaining as well as demonstrating a clear and refreshing evolution of character and story. I found myself very invested in the characters and fervently rooting for some justice at the end and for things to turn out just so. I took a couple days getting started but by half way I was staying up late and reading before work to get through it.
It does get ahold of you. On the neutral side, some of the subplots came across a bit weakly. I was tied up in most of them but others just left me rather quizzical. There are certainly high points and "meh" points. At times the characters seem more Midwestern than European and one wonders how a passage from Little House on the Prairie leaked into the novel.
One final item of note is that this book is exceptionally graphic at times. Personally I found such candid talk refreshing but then again, I am a guy and we do have a different view on such things most of the time.
Les yeux jaunes des crocodiles
Les Yeux jaunes des crocodiles