The Adversary by Emmanuel Carrère

Translated from the French by Linda Coverdale.

What makes a murderer? It is an endlessly fascinating subject we try to solve, try to find a way to give reason to the unreasonable. Analysis of true crime ranges from the engrossing to the dull and in the Adversary, Emmanuel Carrère takes on the story of Jean-Claude Romand, a book that is far from dull.

the adversary by emmanuel carrere“Acclaimed master of psychological suspense, Emmanuel Carrère, whose fiction John Updike described as “stunning” (The New Yorker) explores the double life of a respectable doctor, eighteen years of lies, five murders, and the extremes to which ordinary people can go.” GoodReads.

Jean-Claude Romand was a master of disguise, a premier liar. He accumulated the money of others as his own, lied about his employment and studies, wore a veneer so carefully crafted no one knew that everything about him was a construct. And in January 1993 he killed his wife, children and parents.

Reading this book, you not only learn about his life leading up to the murders but Carrère’s growing ‘connection’ with Romand. After communicating with someone a strange bond begins to form, for Romand a friendship, for Carrere I suspect a strange acquaintance that lacks trust. Carrere begins the novel in two different ways and stops writing it twice. You sense the conflict he has writing the story, whether it is acceptable to tell the story of Romand. Carrère stays as objective as he is able to, but it is a concern for him that he may not be. It becomes a book oddly not only about Romand and what he has done but partially about how to even construct it.

The Adversary is translated from the French by Coverdale, a flawless (in my opinion, though I don’t speak French) translation that provoked the obvious conflict of feeling the author has while undertaking – and not undertaking – this project.

I requested this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wake Me When I'm Gone

Wake Me When I’m Gone by Odafe Atogun

There are books that pass me by as though I had never read them, books that become part of me and all my words are spent describing them, and then there are astonishing books my vocabulary can’t even vocalise. Wake We When I’m Gone by Odafe Atogun is just that.

Wake Me When I'm Gone“Everyone says that Ese is the most beautiful woman in the region, but a fool. A young widow, she lives in a village, where the crops grow tall and the people are ruled over by a Chief on a white horse. She married for love, but now her husband is dead, leaving her with nothing but a market stall and a young son to feed.

When the Chief knocks on Ese’s door demanding that she marry again, as the laws of the land dictate she must, Ese is a fool once more. There is a high price for breaking the law, and an even greater cost for breaking the heart of a Chief. Ese will face the wrath of gods and men in the fight to preserve her heart, to keep her son and to right centuries of wrongs. She will change the lives of many on the road to freedom, and she will face the greatest pain a mother ever can.” GoodReads.

Set within village democracy familiar and yet so removed from what I know in my Western existence, Esa must rise above the tradition of her village to claim her right to exist and protect her son. The Chief rules the village and the rules are dictated by folk law and the Gods (reminiscent of medieval England).

Esa, her son, the Orphans of the village and the villagers themselves overcome tradition and adversity to fulfil their dreams. It’s brilliant, it’s frightening and heartbreaking – just when you think something worse could never happen and it does.

Wake Me When I’m Gone is a powerful story of one woman’s fight for change and independence, despite the obstacles.

I requested Wake Me When I’m Gone from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Lessons by Naomi Alderman

I’m an anxious person. If there is something to worry about I’m there worrying about it. I’m currently worried that Federer both will and won’t win his match in the second round, I am nothing but contradictory. (By the time this post goes out I’m sure I’ll have some clarity.)

So while I dive into books to escape a fluctuating reality, I love it when a book makes me anxious. If it’s making me anxious it’s making me feel. The Lessons by Naomi Alderman is one of those books.

The Lessons by Naomi Alderman“Mark gathers around him an impressionable group of students: glamorous Emmanuella, who always has a new boyfriend in tow; Franny and Simon, best friends and occasional lovers; musician Jess, whose calm exterior hides passionate depths. And James, already damaged by Oxford and looking for a group to belong to.

For a time they live in a charmed world of learning and parties and love affairs. But university is no grounding for adult life, and when, years later, tragedy strikes they are entirely unprepared.” GoodReads.

If James hadn’t slipped and damaged his knee in his first year of university his life would have been different. Instead of meeting patient Jess, mysterious Emmanuella, on and off again Franny and Simon and the rich enigmatic Mark he would have probably achieved academic success, go on to teach and lead a relatively bland life. At the moment of James’ accident, his life changes forever.

I didn’t like James, his weakness repelled me and at times I wanted to throw the book across the room.

It was James’ nature that hit too close to home, inducing my anxiety. He is a needy teenager, absorbing the highlights of his friend’s lives, sitting on the periphery of the action like Richard in The Secret History. Unlike his peers, James doesn’t know who he is at university, or more accurately, he doesn’t have any goals. He unintentionally relies on his girlfriend, boyfriend and friends to be his lighthouse. I too was that teenager, I didn’t like much outside of what my friends liked – or people I wanted to impress liked – and to go from that to finding yourself, it’s a long journey.

There are lessons in life that each of the group learns independently of one another, later than less privileged of their age and at alternative moments to the others. Whether it’s James finally leaving Mark or Emannualla suddenly understanding the toxicity of mass wealth.

The writing, which felt so different from The Power, thread my me into the story, while the characters drew me in. I would have loved 200 more pages just so Jess, Franny, Simon, Emmanualla and Nicola could have been fleshed out more. James and Mark are very much the focus of the story. There are also deeper issues that could have been explored with more depth, but we understand Mark through the eyes of James, and if Mark refuses to confide more in him there is only so much the reader can know.

I came to love James by the end when he finally wakes up from his daze and realises he needs to find out who he is, even if that means starting from scratch.

The Lessons was a beautiful story of friendship, love and discovery. Of knowing and not knowing who you are and accepting yourself. And, I suppose, allowing others to love you for who you are and not what you can give them.


Have you read The Lessons?