Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Other Story - Book Review

I really liked Tatiana de Rosnay's first novel Sarah's Key. My book club read it several years ago and I loved the story. It was filled with powerful images and I found it interesting to learn about how the French rounded up Jews during World War II to aid the German Nazis. I found the connections between the Holocaust and the murder of children combined with the present day story line involving the thoughtful decision of whether or not to have an abortion haunting and meaningful. I also enjoyed the movie. While I haven't read some of Tatiana de Rosnay's other novels, I was looking forward to reading The Other Story, her newest.

The plot appealed to me. Nicolas Duhamel a young author finds immediate and amazing success with his debut novel. The novel, titled The Envelope, was loosely based on his own family secret. It appealed to a worldwide crowd and sold millions of copies. He has thousands of adoring fans who follow his every post and tweet. His publisher gave him a huge advance for the his next work. But there is no next work. Nicolas is seized by severe writer's block while he becomes obsessed with his own fame. He takes his girlfriend on vacation to a remote island hoping for inspiration and escape.

While the writing is solid and drew me in, I found myself constantly wanting more. Nicolas is a terribly unlikable character. He is so vain and into himself that it was difficult at times to read about his preening and whining self. He is so selfish that he would rather hide in the restroom with his Blackberry reading sexts (the details of which may make some readers blush) than spend time with his beautiful girlfriend.

The "family secret" that is dangled as a carrot occasionally throughout the novel is delivered so slowly that when I finally got to it, I barely cared.

But here's the thing. While in the middle I described the novel as "horrible" to a friend. It was nothing like Sarah's Key and nothing like what I was expecting. However, The Other Story kept me enraptured and constantly wanting more throughout. In reality, I could hardly put it down and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I finished. Nicolas is an unpleasant character so wrapped up in his own desires that he fails to see those taking advantage of him or what might even become his next story. While he has a brief moment of clarity and selflessness at the end, the reader sees the danger of being catapulted to the top. Of being an idol. An icon. Adored. Nicolas stopped caring about those who were close to him and spent his life Googling himself.

When the story is seen less as one of the discovery of family secrets and more as the study of the conceited celebrity, the reader realizes it's power and thoughtfulness. And once again Tatiana de Rosnay delivers a novel that consumes my thoughts, my prejudices and my time.

The Other Story by Tatiana de Rosnay is published by St. Martin's Press on April 15, 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Other Story in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

No comments: