Funny, witty and well observed prose that lacks something as a novel,
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This review is from: Paris Trance: A Romance (Paperback)
Paris Trance is a novel about the independence and vitality of early adulthood and the resonance of decisions made during that most carefree and idealistic period. It’s also about booze, drugs, clubs, ambition, ambivalence, happiness, destiny and sex. Lots of sex.
Four foreigners meet in Paris and become two couples. The novel follows their blossoming relationships, friendship and adventures all the while riffing off Hemingway and Fitzgerald’s novels and life in Paris.
Plot is a very much a secondary concern for Dyer. He is an author who is more interested in place, character and ideas. Very little of consequence happens in this novel other than that which serves to unpick the personality of his protagonists or to explore his chosen themes.
Like Jeff in Venice; Death in Varanasi, Dyer uses a structure that lays out the skeleton of the work during the first half and then fills in meaning during the back-end. In both cases, it makes the first half of the novel drag somewhat (although less so in Paris Trance). Unfortunately, whilst the second half of Jeff in Venice was blisteringly revelatory, here it seems more pedestrian. The ideas seem less coherently structured and arguments less effectively articulated. More than anything, the languid diffidence that the characters direct at the trappings of adult responsibilities seems to infect not only the plot but also the subtext.
The wordplay that is upfront in the punning title continues throughout the novel. Dyer has a real talent for prose; the city is sketched beautifully, the dialogue is arch but naturalistic and wry phrases are deployed with abandon.
Nevertheless, neither the themes nor the characters resonate sufficiently on an emotional or intellectual level to compensate for the lack of plot. Dyer’s sense of place and wonderful prose means that almost every page has something to enjoy but it doesn’t coalesce into a work greater, or even the equal, of its constituent parts.