I feel like I should have liked this more than I did… I mean, I did enjoy it, I romped through it on a bus journey to London, but it hasn’t particularly stayed with me.
Also apparently we’re not meant to give spoilers, so I won’t – except it’s kind of blatantly obvious what’s going on, because it’s the only possible thing that could be going on. And while I wasn’t disappointed to learn that the only thing that could be going on was, in fact, going on – I think expecting the reader to have their tiny mind blown is pushing it.
And, apologies, if that sounds uncharitable but while the book pacey, intriguing and tightly plotted, I tend to find plot twists a bit less impactful when you get the sense that somebody is standing behind you going “omg, did you see mah plot twist.”
Anyway: the book kicks off in 1967 with a young reporter, Juliette Blanc, investigating the rediscovery of a silent movie from 1913 which was assumed lost in a studio fire. Enter Adele Roux, the lead actress of the piece, who slowly reveals to Juliette the history (and the shocking truth!) of the film, and the events that took place in 1913. Sex! Scandal! Cinema! Lesbianism! Betrayal! Yay!
It’s a very cinematic book, and employs a lot of narrative tricks, to deceive and dazzle the reader, splicing together timelines and viewpoints, and occasionally doubling back on itself to reveal, and conceal, different perspectives and pieces of information. It’s clever stuff, although it’s more intellectually than emotionally engaging. Adele’s journey from self-serving ambition to all-consuming love, particularly, I initially found a bit unconvincing, but then she is seventeen at the time so that probably goes some way to explain the slightly unfinished edge to her character. Well, that and The Thing. But, then, Andre’s journey from powerless to power to convenient balls-to-the-wall villainy was equally ragged. However, the fact that I didn’t feel particularly sympathetic to anyone wasn’t necessarily a problem, as I was sufficiently drawn in to keep reading regardless.
In short, I think I admired the style of this, more than the substance, but I did admire the hell out of the style. Also I deeply loved the portrayal of pre-WWI Paris in all its cruelty and decadence.