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2.7 out of 5 stars
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2.7 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 13 May 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
David Kolski is a construction manager with the Sisyphean task of overseeing the building of Paris' tallest building, the Jupiter Tower (although in the French original it seems to be called the Uranus Tower), he also has a system which means he never sleeps with the same woman twice, except for his wife, until he meets Victoria de Winter. Victoria is the Head of HR for a multi-national company who works and plays hard. She is a capitalist through and through, while David is a leftist liberal. Together they embark on an erotic love affair which ultimately ends in tragedy.

This is the type of novel which people will either love of hate, some will see it as a stylish ultra-modern disquisition on the western capitalist system, others will feel it is more a case of the Emperor's New Clothes. I fall somewhere in-between the two camps. The majority of the novel is taken up with the love affair between the two central characters as well as their discussions on the merits or not of capitalism.

They both work hard but only she gets the perks afforded to the capitalist elite, he gets a glimpse of this world but his lofty ideals prevent him from ever truly being a part of it - he still hopes for revolution but the nearest he gets to a revolutionary speech is when he exhorts his workers to work harder to get the tower finished, rather than overthrow their masters. David is truly torn between his ideals and his obsession for Victoria. He is laid bare for the reader but she remains an enigma right to the end - is she friend or foe?

The closest British writer I could think of to compare this novel to would be J.G. Ballard (especially his later works starting with 'Cocaine Nights'). 'The Victoria System' has the same slightly dis-interested factual style to it which I find in Ballard and we rarely, if ever, glimpse the inner lives of the characters.

Overall this is an intriguing novel which may pull readers in through the blurb alluding to it being an erotic thriller - which it isn't, although parts of it are - but I would suggest only giving the novel a go if you are particularly interested in modern French literature, otherwise you may be disappointed.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Firstly, the cover of this book would put me off buying it unless I was only going to read it hidden away at home and/or in bed - it's not a good look in the office, park or on public transport. Notwithstanding appearances, I read the book to give my honest opinion on the actual story and writing and by chapter three I was losing the will to live ! The language and diction is so grandiose and pompous that I thought I'd slipped into a Thursday morning of Melvyn Bragg on Radio 4. Some word examples that are over the top are - splenetic, logorrrhoea, sycophantic, physiognomy, sacristan, caesura - all in the space of a few pages. The author may not be at all pompous but the translation from French appears that way. Descriptions of situations and reasoning are also long-winded and over the top. There were four full pages of what David's face physically looked like to him in the mirror - vain or what !

The actual story itself felt slow to take off and but there were little moments that made you think that this is going to build into something good. The basic story is of David having numerous one night stands behind his wife's back, mainly because he has some sort of mental sexual problem. He has a very stressful job and the financial and political nature of being in control of the building of the tallest construction in France is a major part of the story, and some parts of that are very interesting. A lot of the analysis of David's infidelities is to justify that the numerous one night stands he has are not affairs or being unfaithful because he only sees them once and his wife doesn't know about it. Victoria is a married high-flying HR executive travelling all around the world and seeks sexual pleasure from men other than her husband to relieve her stresses. One year after David and Victoria meet, Victoria is dead and David is homeless and questioned by the police for her murder. This all comes out early on in the book and the reader moves back and forth in time to give the full year's story.

The book really only deserves three stars because it is fairly average in content and the writing is irritating but, the last hundred or so pages are really quite exciting and build to a very good end so overall I would like to lift it to three and a half but not quite four stars. If you want erotic and thrilling then this book doesn't quite add up to that, in fact the sex (barely erotic) didn't start until well after a hundred pages.
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VINE VOICEon 20 November 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A story about a man's obsession of a female colleague and the following affair - however it was no Fifty Shades of Grey and I found it to be a book I did not enjoy or would recommend to others.
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VINE VOICEon 25 May 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a book that I gave up on at least twice, however decided not to give in so that I could at least give it a fair review. I put the book down because I just couldn't identify with or even sympathise with any of the main characters, first David and then later Victoria.

I found them by degrees self obsessed people who have no real regard for anyone else other than themselves. No interest in the repercussions of their actions, only in feeling what they feel or what to feel. I find that if I have no reference or sympathy then I struggle to really enjoy the work, that was certainly true here.

The book does improve as the story fleshes out, as much by adding back story as by telling the future story too. The story is interesting and well told with the themes of capitalism versus socialism and morality increasingly well woven as the story continues.

I certainly would not recommend this book to everyone, I think that it is not designed to, nor will appeal to the majority of people. It is not an easy reading book and does take a bleak look at human nature. As such it will appeal more to readers of french books as well as lovers of literature rather that enjoyers of stories. If you do love reading 'classic' books then read on. If you easily put down books that you don't enjoy then look elsewhere.
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VINE VOICEon 9 May 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I fully admit that I chose this book thinking that it would be an easy to read erotic tome which would be perfect for summer but I was quite disappointed. This is a translation by Sam Taylor from the original French novel which was penned by by Eric Reinhardt and although it's a pretty flawless rendition I think it's a little bizarre that the majority of the characters have French names and it's set in Paris(!) I guess it would be, most translations include that dichotomy. The central character, David Kolski, the Construction Site Manager for the highest tower in Paris (bigger than the Eiffel Tower Mr Author?)is very difficult to like and indeed empathise with, despite the back story to his quest for meaningless sex prior to meeting the titular Victoria whom he forms and deep and lasting erotic bond with.

I read up until page 150 of this 467 page book, which is far too long in my opinion because I prefer brevity in novels. I gave up because I just wasn't enjoying it and for me to actually look forward to snuggling up in bed with a good book is always a welcoming thought after a busy day. I've no doubt that some readers will adore this book, but I didn't and it's very much a matter of personal taste.
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on 1 December 2014
If you're expecting fifty shades of grey, this is not the book for you. This is not simple erotica and voyeurism, and whilst there is plenty of fairly explicit sex, it is only part of the story of this relationship. I skipped a few paragraphs about concrete construction...not my bag...but I couldn't put the book down. For me, the anti climax ending wasn't disappointing, just reflected the inevitable despair of the main characters. It was sad, and poignant, for me there is some statement here about women's lack of autonomy and sexual freedom, even rich, powerful like Victoria. I definitely recommend.
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on 26 April 2015
The Victoria System is an incredibly French novel about a socialist architect’s love-affair with a High-Powered Businesswoman. I did think for a while that parts of it were flying over my head, but after a while I determined that the author just wasn’t very good at imparting a sense of place or explaining a plot. Bits of it are an erotic drama. Bits of it are talking-head discourses about the problems of late capitalism. Bits of it are a murder mystery that is barely discussed and never resolved.

Flash-forwards in the middle of the text point at an “ending” where most genre stories would only just be beginning. Supposedly, the whole thing allegorises a stand-off in French politics between the builders of the left and the corporate ram-raiders of the right, as revealed through the story of the building of a giant skyscraper in Paris, which the architect is managing, but is falling behind schedule. He tries to speed things up, while sinister Russian businessmen, who stand to make a killing in punitive payments if their offices are not completed on time, want to bribe him to slow things down.

I sensed, also, a subtle background series of references to Gerard de Nerval, and the sense that the narrator was a “prince d’Aquitaine a la tour abolie” like something out of Nerval’s famous poem The Inconsolable (“my only star is dead, and my constellated lute bears the black sun of melancholy”) – not sure the translator spotted that himself, though, so possibly it was clearer in French and there were more references in the text that have been sanded away in the translation process. By the end, it felt less like a novel than three or four abortive attempts to begin one, but even though the central plot elements remained unresolved, the journey itself was worthwhile.
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VINE VOICEon 25 September 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Victoria System is a big book that could have been a much smaller book. Big books are undoubtedly more impressive than smaller books. Feel the weight of it in your hand, toss it as hard as you can at the nearest wall and watch it bounce satisfyingly back without scarcely any damage, sit yourself down on a bench in a public place with a bookmark sticking out at around the halfway mark indicating to any interested passerby (and there will be at least one, there's always at least one) that a couple of hundred of those densely typed pages have been well and truly dealt with.
A man spots an attractive woman in a shopping centre. He becomes obsessed. He's French, you see. He starts to follow her. She finds this charming, not creepy. It's sixty odd pages before they even sit down for a proper conversation, it's another twenty odd pages before that conversation is even concluded. It's that sort of book. It's French you see, I might already have mentioned that. It's not bad, it toodles along in its own pleasant Gallic way, but there were times when my wandering mind turned to thoughts of Monsieur Proust and whether he had any idea what he was starting.
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VINE VOICEon 20 June 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This 'erotic thriller' is about as sensual as a dead kipper. David is happily married, but seems to enjoy having affairs all the same. That is until he spies and engineers a meeting with Victoria, who is a completely different proposition to all the other women.

To be honest, the rest of the plot is almost irrelevant. The characters are so self-obsessed to the point of embarrassment - making interest and concentration tough for the reader and it's such slow going.

Added to that, the cover makes this book something I wouldn't want to read in public. All in all, not to be recommended
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Ah, what a shame, as with many things in life the build up is great but the climax can dissapoint ;-)

It was a good overall read, but some of it regarding the business side of the characters lives was just too long winded and waffly for me, and the ending was a bit too rushed and forgettable. Not a bad book but not perfect.
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