Want a Book that ‘Wows’ You?

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My sister once pointed out to me that I have the distinct quirk of laughing and, almost imperceptibly, mumbling, “okay” every time I make a funny joke (almost constantly). I’ve pointed it out to a number of friends, who have confirmed it’s something I do—despite the fact that I almost never notice. Something I did notice this evening, however, is that I have the embarrassingly dad-like quality of stating aloud, to no one in particular, how I felt about a particular book whenever I finish it. For example, after I finished The 6:41 to Paris, I said ‘that was a cute little book.’ The book I finished this evening, The Case of Lisandra P. merited a simple ‘wow.’ I don’t give ‘wows’ often, and they don’t connote an incredible book—my ‘wows’ are a simply a personal attempt to convey and comprehend the intensity of what I have just read. Now that we’ve gotten the explanatory quirks paragraph out of the way, let’s delve a little deeper into what this ‘intense’ book is actually about.

Just like The 6:41 to Paris, I picked The Case of Lisandra P. almost entirely at random. I say almost because after selecting Jean-Philippe Blondel’s roman à clef, I decided it might make sense to round it out by purchasing another book by a French author—this time Hélène Grémillon—to officially bring a little Francophile chic into this long and dreary week. I had no idea what I was in for, but Paris Match’s book reviewer informed me that Gremillon was “a master in the art of the page-turner.” Count me in.

The Case of Lisandra P. begins with a description of a first encounter with Lisandra by an unidentified narrator. The man is a shrink, and Lisandra has just burst into his office, in hysterics over a man she loves that no longer loves her. She gets so upset in the middle of the session that she runs out of the room. Despite it being against professional protocol, the shrink is taken with her—so much so that he stops at nothing to track her down. He is eventually successful, and he becomes her husband, Vittorio Puig—who, in the following chapter, is arrested for her murder.

When one of Vittorio’s most loyal clients, Eva Maria, finds out he’s been immediately imprisoned for his wife’s murder, she is convinced it is a mistake, and plans to do everything in her power to get Vittorio acquitted. The story that follows is positively thick with plot twists and turns, and I can honestly say that, of all the psychological thrillers I have read, this one had the most unexpected ending—as well as the deepest and most shrewd prose. I am not sure whether Alison Anderson has a particular talent for painting French translations in their absolute best light, but, might like Blondel’s work, this one was chock-full of insights that kept me thinking about the French lease on life longer after I uttered the definitive “wow.”

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