1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
True horror without a supernatural being in sight,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Stranger Next Door (Hardcover)
When Emile Hazel retires from teaching, he and his spouse Juliette move to an isolated home in Southern France. The radical change in lifestyle from the urban classroom to a locale with only one neighbor seems perfect to the Hazels. However, they are soon visited by their extradinarily obese sole neighbor, Dr. Bernardin, who demands a cup of coffee. The doctor keeps them company for several hours, but fails to hold up his end of any conversation.
The uninvited doctor starts visiting the resentful Hazels every day. Subtle and direct efforts to end the daily coffee break fail miserably, almost as if the doctor is immune to any actions by his "hosts". The Hazels eventually invite the doctor and his equally obese spouse for dinner. However, the next day, Bernardin renews his solo visits until a frustrated Emile literally shoves the doctor out the door. When Bernardin stops coming, a guilty Emile investigates why and soon finds himself even more deeply bound to his former guest.
THE STRANGER NEXT DOOR is a frightening psychological drama that rips asunder the veneer of politeness in modern civilization. The Hazels and their only neighbor(s) are all wonderful caricatures, a parody that surprisingly makes them all seem like genuine but grotesque human beings. Only a talent as good as Amelie Nothomb could accomplish such a feat in a poignant tale. Readers need not be concerned that this is a translation because Carol Volk does a terrific job without missing a beat.