Be prepared for emotional turmoil…
Be prepared to be bereft…
Isabelle in the Afternoon by Douglas Kennedy is about to be released into the world and it will completely capture your heart and soul. It is my final review of 2019, as I take a blogging break for the festive season, and what an incredible novel to finish on.
Due for publication with Hutchinson (Penguin) on January 9th 2020, Isabelle in the Afternoon is described as ‘a novel that questions what we seek, what we find, what we settle for – and shows how love, when not lived day in, day out, can become the passion of a lifetime.‘
Read on for more…..
[ About the Book ]
Before Isabelle I knew nothing of sex.
Before Isabelle I knew nothing of freedom.
Before Isabelle I knew nothing of life.
Paris in the early Seventies. Sam, an American student, meets a woman in a bookshop. Isabelle is enigmatic, beautiful, older and, unlike Sam, experienced in love’s many contradictions. Sam is instantly smitten – but wary of the wedding ring on her finger.
What begins as a regular arrangement in Isabelle’s tiny Parisian apartment transforms into a true affair of the heart, and one which lasts for decades to come.
[ My Review ]
Where do I start with my thoughts on this book, this affecting novel that just touched me in so many ways. When reading it, in my mind I was listening to the incredible soundtrack by Gabriel Yared from that classic 1980s French movie Betty Blue (37°2 Le Matin) If you have seen this famous movie, you will know why. If you have never listened to this soundtrack, please do……
Isabelle in the Afternoon is a book that depicts an intense passion, a dramatic love story of two star crossed lovers, a very moving tale of heartbreak and desperation.
Paris in the 1970s was a bohemian place to be, a place to hang out and find oneself. With expectations of impending adulthood ahead and all that that entails, Sam, an American student, wanted to experience this eclectic life before his Harvard education began. Sam’s home-life was stilted. His mother had passed away and his father was a man who expressed very little emotion. On a budget and a dream, Sam headed to Paris. Initially Sam was excited at the prospect ahead but as the days passed, he discovered that Paris alone was a very lonely experience. But a chance meeting in a bookshop with the enigmatic Isabelle was to change Sam’s life forever.
Sam was immediately smitten with Isabelle, this older and beautiful Parisian woman. She was everything he could possibly have dreamed of and more, but Isabelle was different, complex. Her demands from their very first encounter were clear cut. This was to be a ‘classic French arrangement’ otherwise known as a cinq à sept. Sam was to call to Isabelle’s bijoux apartment between the hours of five and seven a few days a week. This was to be a straight forward affair, no ties, no complications. Neither expected what happened next…
Isabelle was married. Her husband was a respected member of Parisian society. She returned to this life after her time with Sam but as the days passed, Sam fell in love with Isabelle. She was passionate, hot-headed, loving and strong willed. Sam wanted her. Sam wanted her for himself only and his jealousy was no longer something he was able to hide. Isabelle was impatient with Sam’s needling, his demands. She admired him, she loved being with him for that two hour slot but for Isabelle that was all their relationship would ever be. She believed in the rules she had established from the beginning of their affair and was not prepared to shift this arrangement in any way.
Isabelle was a fascinating character to read about. Plagued with her own demons and trapped in a very unhappy place, those two hours with Sam gave her the breathing space and the ability to cope with everything else in her life. Isabelle is very French with the cinq à sept arrangement accepted as part of her routine. Her husband, Charles, also had his own dalliances and Isabelle was very accepting of their choices as a married couple.
But for Sam these strict rules were frustrating and upsetting. He was swept along on this insane roller-coaster of emotions, with his intermittent resentment for Isabelle as evident as his passion. As the months passed, the inevitable happened, Sam had to go home, return to his life in the States, leaving Isabelle behind. But Sam’s heart remained in that bijoux apartment with his ardent passion and love for Isabelle forever etched in his heart and mind. Isabelle developed very strong feelings for Sam and, one could say, was, at times, very selfish in her treatment of him. She kept asking from him but never bent to his will, his requests, knowing that he would always come back to her, whenever she would call. But life has a way of intervening and Sam made a decision that would impact his life forever more……
As the years passed, Sam and Isabelle moved on with their lives but the strings that connected them were forever bound tight. Sam became a very successful lawyer but his personal life took a very dark turn with years of heartache and difficulties faced. Relationships were always made in the shadow of his love for Isabelle. They had occasional communication over the years and their passion for each other never lapsed but for Isabelle and Sam, it was a love-story that was continuously plagued by a darkness, an overhanging sadness.
Isabelle and Sam are such captivating characters. Her mood swings, her temperament, his unrequited love, his gentleness are all perfectly depicted in this exquisite tale.
Isabelle in the Afternoon is a rare book, one of those very special ones that plays over in your mind, one of those unique books that you know you will read again, perhaps hoping for an alternative outcome whilst, at the same time, knowing there really only can be one…..
Isabelle in the Afternoon is a devastatingly stunning novel. It captures moments that are very rare and very special, almost voyeuristic in their description. It is a very sensual tale portraying the intensity of a love, the ferocity of a passion filled with loss and regret.
Emotional, poignant, intoxicating, beautiful. Please read……
[ Bio ]
Douglas Kennedy’s previous twelve novels include the critically acclaimed bestsellers The Big Picture, The Pursuit of Happiness, A Special Relationship and The Moment. He is also the author of three highly-praised travel books. The Big Picture was filmed with Romain Duris and Catherine Deneuve; The Woman in the Fifth with Ethan Hawke and Kristin Scott Thomas. His work has been translated into twenty-two languages.
In 2007 he was awarded the French decoration of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and in 2009 the inaugural Grand Prix de Figaro. Born in Manhattan in 1955, he has two children and currently divides his time between London, Paris, Berlin, Maine and New York.
Twitter ~ @DouglasLKennedy