Le Divorce Paperback – 1 Jan 1998
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From the Back Cover
Isabel Walker, a young, not-so-innocent American abroad, arrives in Paris to find that her sister's French husband ('the frog prince') has just walked out. While Isabel embarks on her own sentimental education - seduced by gourmet food, antiques, existentialism and an older man - her sister's marriage disintegrates into bitter Franco-American wrangles over money, titles and a mysterious painting. With a sharp tongue and an ironic eye for the foibles of the Parisian bourgeoisie, the French art world and American ex-patriots, Isabel is a collector of experience, even those she can't control.
About the Author
Diane Johnson is the author of the bestselling novel Le Divorce, a 1997 National Book Award finalist, as well as twelve other books, including the novels Persian Nights, Health and Happiness, Lying Low, The Shadow Knows, and Burning (all available in Plume editions). She divides her time between San Francisco and Paris. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
She writes quite exquisitely, in that now sadly neglected genre the comedy of manners. Please do not deny yourself the ultimate treat of diving into her work. She is truly the Jane Austen de nos jours.
Le Divorce opens with a prologue, its narrator, Isabel Walker, gives us the cast list through a series of establishing shots. The theme is Americans in Paris - Isabel's name reminds us of Henry James' heroine Isabel Archer from Portrait of a Lady. Where his Americans are naive and innocents abroad in wily old Europe, Johnson's Isabel is not likely to be taken advantage of despite her lack of sophistication and knowledge of how to behave in French society.
The plot works but where Johnson has fun in this comedy of manners is in drawing interesting juxtapositions of cultural differences - the Americans at times refreshingly direct in the face of French duplicity. The different laws on divorce and property are explored to highlight the differing assumptions of individuals versus family. On one level the plot is the stuff of chick lit fiction but Johnson highlights the moral complexity. I understand that the book has been made into a film with romcom queen Kate Hudson and wonder whether and how that has been translated.
Johnson is good on the details of starting to learn another language - 'Everyone was speaking French. I had known they would be of course, but had failed to anticipate my dismay.' Later Isabel suudently notices that she can understand what people are saying on the bus and in cafe's - and then notices that it is banal after all.
I will be reading more of Diane Johnson