Translated by Linda Coverdale.
I’ve been finding it hard to do anything other than re-read Game of Thrones, so in order to take a break from historical fantasy I decided to read another short piece of translated fiction. I almost read another Erpenbeck, but held back so not to overdose on brilliance.
Technically, The Blue Room is a psychological thriller, but it gave me so much more than I have known from books of that genre before. I prefer to think of it as a character driven unraveling.
“For Tony and Andrée, there are no rules when they meet in the blue room at the Hôtel des Voyageurs. Their adulterous affair is intoxicating, passionate – and dangerous. Soon it turns into a nightmare from which there can be no escape. Simenon’s stylish and sensual psychological thriller weaves a story of cruelty, reckless lust and relentless guilt.” GoodReads.
From the outset, the reader will know the outcome of this novel. The crime in itself is irrelevant compared to the events that take Tony and Andrée there. The Blue Room is at once an emotional and chilling experience. Tony is the master of his own destruction, propelled by his uncontrollable libido. Andrée, according to Tony, is emotionless and calculating.
The style of the novel is soft and reluctant in its elucidation of the plot. A testament to Tony’s inability to thoroughly recount the year that leads him to prison. Events unfold through his eyes and the text carefully mingles between past and present, skipping easily from one thought to the next.
Andrée’s unabashed sexuality and lust for Tony sets her as the antagonist for Tony’s downfall. She is dark haired, tall – in love with an oblivious Tony since their childhood. Tony’s wife in comparison, is almost sexless, pure and blonde. The model housewife and mother, oblivious (apparently) to her husband’s infidelity.
‘He had nothing against his wife. He had known what he was doing when he married her. He didn’t want an impassioned mistress for a wife, but a woman exactly like Gisele, and her shy modesty had not displeased him – on the contrary. One doesn’t spend one’s life in a bed with someone, in a room with glowing sunshine, in the naked embrace of bodily passion.’
At a base level it seems as though female sexuality is seen as both a punishment for men and women. A demonstration of the evil power of a woman taking the lead as a sexual predator. She is Eve, tempting Adam with an apple.
Even with this in my mind and my ambivalence towards the fate of Tony, I enjoyed both the novel and its pace. It would be interesting to have a novel from Andrée’s point of view, as her voice was definitely lacking.
If you like Gone Girl, you’ll enjoy The Blue Room. And if you didn’t (like me), you’ll enjoy it too.