Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Book: Petite Mort by Beatrice Hitchman

The novel follows the story of Adèle Roux, a young French girl who goes to Paris hoping to become an actress in the age of silent film. She gets involved with the Durands, André a special effects guru and inventor working for Pathé, and Luce, a famous actress. La Petite Mort is a film that contains a never before seen effect (that is actually never really explained) and a part which Adèle is offered and plays. In 1967 the missing film of la Petite Mort is found and Juliette, a journalist, starts to investigate its disappearance, and the still missing fragment including the 'effect', she also starts interviewing Adèle for what she says will be her memoirs.

This book wasn't quite what I expected it to be, though I did enjoy it! I lived in Paris for 6 months and so the street names, arrondisments and places all seemed familiar to me, though I'm not sure I would have understood the references to the arrondisments (I've explained arrondisments at the bottom of the review for anyone who doesn't know what they are) without having lived in Paris.

I expected that the book would follow Adèle through the making of the film, whereas in reality the film barely got a look in, though it was a necessary ingredient towards telling the story. In a way I guess that this book was more of a coming of age story, for Adèle at least, though I was shocked when I realised just how young she was (during a conversation with Luce she says that she is 17 about half way through the novel). The story was very much that of Adèle's private life, and ultimately about her love life. Though there were interruptions telling of Luce and André's pasts (as well as Juliette's side of investigating the missing film and interviewing Adèle.)

I wasn't too sure what to make of the interruptive style. At first glance it wasn't particularly clear who each chapter was about, with the exception of Adèle's chapters, who it was was written in small letters at the start of the chapter. However once you started reading it became instantly clear who the chapter was about. Adèle and Juliette's point of views were both first person narrative, though they were easy to differentiate as Adèle's was a more day-to-day account, whereas Juliette's was solely based on the film not her personal life. Then Luce and André's point of views were both in the third person and were a lot more compressed time wise, a lot happened in a short space of time. On top of this there were large jumps in the time between their chapters, though this didn't detract from the story as those jumps were necessary to get the story moving.

The twist that is mentioned in the blurb: I did not see it coming. I was convinced that I had it figured out when something happened that I wasn't expecting, but then it took me right up until Juliette started to explain what happened to Juliette that I really got what it was! As a piece of suspense writing this was fantastic! Hats off to Ms. Hitchman.

I would recommend this book in the blink of an eye, I found that Adèle's story was captivating, and each of the characters had a depth to then that really added more to the story, gripping and surprising!