Adèle: A Novel, by Leila Slimani
Publication: Penguin Books; February 5, 2019
About the book:
From the bestselling author of The Perfect Nanny, her prizewinning novel about a sex-addicted woman in Paris
Adèle appears to have a perfect life: She is a successful journalist in Paris who lives in a beautiful apartment with her surgeon husband and their young son. But underneath the surface, she is bored by her job and her marriage–and consumed by an insatiable need to have sex. Driven less by pleasure than compulsion, she organizes her day around her extramarital affairs, arriving late to work and lying to her husband about where she’s been until she becomes ensnared in a trap of her own making. Suspenseful, erotic, and daring, Adèle is a captivating exploration of addiction, sexuality, and one woman’s quest to feel alive.
Wow! I saw this recently on NetGalley and was intrigued, but Adèle has truly blown me away. This quick read tells about a woman, wife, and mother Adele that for numerous reasons is unsatisfied in her life with her husband Richard, their son Lucien, and her career as a journalist. Whether getting a sitter for her son for a few hours while her physician husband is working, using her friend Lauren as a cover-up, or on business trips around the world – Adele is addicted to sex and more often than not, with men she doesn’t know. As if watching a drug addict with a craving, the reader witnesses Adele’s physical and emotional longing for sex, as well as, how it slowly starts to destroy her.
Let me begin by saying that often, I struggle with translations of novels and was a bit reluctant when I realized that this was the English translation of a French novel. However, whoever was responsible for this translation did an incredible job and I wish I could find their name to give them proper credit. Leila Slimani’s writing is exquisite, beautiful, emotional, raw, erotic, and heart-breaking all at once. Despite some of the very blunt and graphic parts of this novel, it felt as if I were lying back and relaxing while someone read to me. I can’t even find the words to describe the beauty of her writing.
Now, as for Adele herself, I found myself going back and forth between hating her, feeling sympathy for her, and cheering her on in hopes of her finding some sort of inner peace and happiness. Through flashbacks from her childhood, the readers learn about events, observations, etc. that may have influenced Adele and her addiction to the cold and detached sex she craved. But I feel as if it was a combined cycle of events, as well as, some clear mental illness. Richard is kind to her and provides well for their family, but they just never connect. She loves her three-year-old son Lucien, but goes back and forth between craving and resenting him. For the majority of the novel, we hear Adele’s point of view that is at times both fascinating and horrifying, but the one thing that is clear is that she craves the unknown, risk, and being touched.
When the book seamlessly shifts into more of Richard’s point of view, I was confused, frustrated, and often sympathetic – yet I still don’t have a clear picture of how he truly felt about Adele. Without giving spoilers, several things change after Richard learns about his wife and her obsession with being unfaithful, but it was unclear whether he loved her, if she loved him, or if it became a game of control and submission.
Adele is not a mystery, romance, suspense, or any other clear genre. If you are a reader that needs a clear and definite resolution, then this may not be the novel for you. Despite the outstanding writing, language, and imagery I actually considered giving up on this novel very early on because I decided that I wasn’t interested in reading about a habitual cheater. However, I have never been so glad to carry on and commit to anything that I have read. This is a novel that I will think about for quite some time. I’ll wonder what became of Richard and Adele’s marriage and family. I’ll wonder about a very odd scene with Adele when her father passes away. I’ll wonder what combination of life experiences causes someone to need the things she did and behave the way she did. But as far as writing, originality, language, and depth – this is the best novel I’ve read in a very long time.
*Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review!