Book review: the first thing you see by Gregoire Delacourt

the-first-thingThis is one of those rare reviews I write just to expunge myself of the experience of reading a book.

So, this book was a bestseller in France, apparently. I picked it up at random from my local library (I have a two year old in tow so not a lot of time to browse!)

The writing is at times quite lovely, but the story, characters, almost everything else about the book built up to a level of such extreme annoyingness that I struggled to finish it.

The opening sentence is: ‘Arthur Dreyfuss liked big breasts.’

This sentence is not just there by accident, or purely to grab the reader’s attention. Look! Boobs!

The first thing you see is the story of an unassuming if handsome young mechanic with a tragic past whose life is transformed when Jeanine, a Scarlett Johansson lookalike (also with a tragic past) turns up unexpectedly on his doorstep and asks to stay.

At first Jeanine continues the pretence that she actually is the actual Scarlett Johansson, then as it starts to fall apart she confides in him that she’s really a French model called Jeanine who has had a sad and tragic life and saw him in passing and fell in love with him. And hey presto, turned up on his doorstep.

And yes, her breasts are amazing. The most wondrous breasts of any woman on the planet.

So at first I didn’t mind this book – there’s a lot to enjoy in the writing, and it gave me lovely reminders of the time I’ve been lucky to spend in France.

But once it got going, and maybe I was just in a particularly bad mood, but grief it gave me the irrits.

The story touches on themes including on the power of appearances, desire, fame, and identity, all interesting enough, but neither character felt like they were developed beyond the most surface level.

The climax of the book is, quite literally, Arthur’s rapturous orgasm over her splendid breasts.

And then, [SPOILER ALERT BUT REALLY WHO CARES] in the moment of utter bliss afterwards, he calls her Scarlett instead of Jeanine.

So once he falls asleep, she takes his car and drives it at high speed into the little chapel in which she’d hoped they might marry. There is a vivid description of the impact of this collision on said splendiferous breasts.

DEEP SIGH.

Read it if you’re in the mood for something really, really, really silly, with a pretension towards the tragic. Or don’t.

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