Adèle By Leila Slimani – A Review

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Publication Date: 7th February 2019

This book lived up to every expectation I had. I’d read Lullaby (The Perfect Nanny in the US) and really enjoyed it. So I am so very grateful to the lovely folk at Faber and Faber for the early review copy of Adèle.

Adèle is a 35 year old journalist living and working in Paris. She is married to an eminent surgeon Richard and they live with their toddler son Lucien.

Right from the start we are aware that Adèle has a habit of sleeping with random men. It is almost like a compulsion. She is constantly seeking something that’s missing within her. She seeks out meaningless, potentially violent sexual encounters with men, some of which she doesn’t even find attractive.

‘She gets up and drinks a strong black coffee. The apartment is silent. In the kitchen she hops about restlessly. She smokes a cigarette. Standing in the shower she wants to scratch herself, to rip her body in two. She bangs her forehead against the wall. She wants someone to grab her and smash her skull into the glass door. As soon as she shuts her eyes she hears the noises: sighs, screams, blows. A naked man panting, a woman coming. She wishes she were just an object in the midst of a horde. She wants to be devoured, sucked, swallowed whole….

She goes to great lengths to hide her secret life from husband Richard, with only close friend Lauren aware of her behaviour and her questionable sexual habits and morals.

Adèle is a very disillusioned woman. She appears to be wholly unsatisfied with her marriage and indeed her entire existence. She tries to hold back her compulsion but struggles against it daily. She’s fully aware of what she could lose and the risks she’s taking and after each encounter she makes deals with herself that she won’t do it again. But ultimately she finds herself with an itch she needs to scratch and she’s back to square one.

Richard struggles with Adèle’s behaviour, especially in front of his colleagues or their friends. She is likely to drink too much and smoke too many cigarettes. She becomes bolder (particularly with men) when she’s been drinking and Richard can see the change in her.

When something happens to change the dynamic of their marriage, Adèle’s behaviour becomes even more erratic at a time when Richard has to rely heavily on her being there for him.

Adèle is such a fascinating woman. She is driven by sex, but not the act itself. She craves the attention of men and thrives off them wanting her. She wants them to take her as they wish, use her almost and fill the void within her. She’s a journalist, a competent one at that when she’s not distracted by her needs (or sleeping with her colleagues). She’s a mother but she doesn’t seem to take to the role very well. Lucien comes across as quite a demanding child and Adèle often becomes overwhelmed by her role as a mother. She frequently leaves him with various people in order for her to have one of her assignations.

She’s selfish and comes across as cold and calculating. Although I couldn’t help but feel for her. It’s just so sad that she needs the attentions of men in order to feel validated as a person. Not Adèle ‘Richards wife’ or Adèle ‘Lucien’s mother’. Anonymous sex with strangers is how she achieves this.

I was so engrossed in this book, Slimani’s writing is so immersive. She does dark brilliantly. And this book is dark. Definitely not erotic in any way, not salacious either. When I initially started reading this book I tweeted that it was ‘sexy’.  It isn’t in retrospect, in any way at all. It is a fascinating study of female sexuality but it isn’t titilating. It’s more about a desperate and fraught sexuality than anything sensual. No sex scenes for the sake of it. Just gritty, raw, emotive writing that leaves you breathless.

Leila Slimani is one of those authors who I know I will enjoy everything she writes.  She tackles taboo subjects head on, unflinching and down to earth writing that draws you in with an almost base quality that I find I can’t look away from.

This book made my top ten reads of 2018 and deservedly so. I’m hoping it has just as much, if not more, attention as Lullaby.

A thoroughly immersive read.

Thank you as always to the publisher for this ARC.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat. Xxx

*Quotation used is from the proof copy*

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6 thoughts on “Adèle By Leila Slimani – A Review

  1. Interesting review. It’s sitting on my to-read pile allong with ‘The Perfect Nanny’.

    While Adele generally got good reviews in the US, Sarah Weinman of the Washington Post and Sophie Gilbert of The Atlantic absolutely savaged it. Given the trend away from negative reviews, it must have touched a nerve with them. I suspect they were anticipating something along the lines of ‘Gone Girl’ or a modern-day ‘Madam Bovary’. They described the book as bleak, tedious, Adele’s character devoid of any redeeming spark and the sex without any underpinning romantic impulse that might make her sympathetic. Their reviews struck me as reflecting emergent thou-shalt-nots in US popular culture where portrayals of female sexuality are concerned.

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