Review in progress: Submission (Soumission), by Michel Houellebecq (Part 2)

SubmissionSo, the election happens, the National Front wins the highest percentage, and the Socialists find themselves negotiating with the Muslim Brotherhood. Reading this bit made me realize how little I knew about how French elections are structured. I may have to do some research reading as well, but for now I’ll just keep reading Submission. (Part 1 of my ongoing review here.)

I still don’t particularly care for Francois. He’s at least showing some interest in things now, although it’s mostly the election, and having sex with Myriam. The sex scene was quite to the point, but not as eye-rollingly bad as others I have read. Still, I can only figure that he likes/loves Myriam because she has a shaved pussy and gives great blow-jobs. Should be interesting to see where their relationship goes, if it does go anywhere further at all. She’s thinking of them as a couple, but he’s not, and she’s moving to Israel after the election result.

Somewhat spookier is the Muslim Brotherhood demand that schools teach spiritual things, and that Muslim-based schools become standard, and no co-teaching of the sexes, with instruction for girls/women reduced to that of homemaking and literature. Though it’s fiction, I wonder if a party would bend on such a thing in order to keep some of their power. (In this case, the Socialists are the ones bargaining with the MB.)

I shall have to read more.

Review in progress: Submission (Soumission), by Michel Houellebecq

SubmissionI picked up this book as I’d read some reviews and reactions, and because it was selling very well in France. It also had been scheduled for translation, so I didn’t have to attempt to struggle through reading the French version.

So far, I have read the first 45 pages of the UK edition of the book.

Francois, the book’s narrator and main character (as it’s a first-person viewpoint), is a middle-aged academic, who, after finishing his studies (on writer Huysmans) and finding himself required to get a job, ends up teaching at a university that’s not quite as good as where he took his degree. Now, in middle age, having not done the usual girlfriend-marriage-children path, and disliking it, he finds himself having lost all motivation for life.

At this point, the book is only just getting started, and it reminds me somewhat of Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre. The feel of the writing is similar (to me, at least). Francois has lost his purpose in life, and is drifting. Nothing excites him, not even dinner (and possibly sex afterward) with the woman who he claims was his favourite in bed. (Frankly, I think that a man who categorizes women that way is likely missing a few other things in his personality as well, as there’s more to someone than how they fuck.)

So far, I do not have much sympathy for Francois, but I am curious to see how this all turns out.

Review, giveaway, & excerpt: In the Shade of the Almond Trees by Dominique Marny

In the Shade of the Almond TreesDominique Marny on Tour September 29 – October 8 withIn the Shade of the Almond Trees

(historical fiction)

Release date: September 29, 2015
at Open Road Media

280 pages

ISBN: 978-1480461178

Website | Goodreads


This is the second book I’ve read by Dominique Marny (the first being “I Looked for the One my Heart Loves”). This one is historical fiction, set just after WWI. It follows the family Barthélemy, focusing most specifically upon Jeanne, the daughter who must run her family’s estate after her father’s death, her mother’s inability, and her brother’s departure to India.

There are a great many characters, and this book is written in a omniscient point of view, which is one that is not used very commonly. I will admit that it threw me for the first few chapters, as I mostly seem to read limited third person point of view stories. (You will find that many books written in older times, ie. by Joseph Conrad, or Elizabeth Gaskell, for example, are more likely to be in an omniscient point of view.) There also were quite a lot of characters, and so keeping things straight was a bit difficult.

For me, I found that Jeanne was the most interesting of the characters, as she had drive and determination, and seemed to be the only one who didn’t really accept her lot in life and strove to improve. She struggled to improve her family’s estate, and to keep them afloat, whereas many of the other characters seemed to merely allow what happened to them to be the only thing in their lives.

In reading this book, I felt that the point of view, though it gave the thoughts of many characters, did not give a particularly deep understanding of most of them, and that made the story seem more superficial. I was not emotionally moved by any of the scenes, though they were interesting enough. For me, this book did in the end fall a bit flat, and I would have liked to see a deeper inspection of fewer characters. However, it was interesting in a historical sense, and learning about olive groves and nougat and almonds and such, because I had little idea of these things before.


From Chapter 17:
Dressed in black, Mrs. Laferrière greeted her in a living room that exuded old-fashioned charm. Her white hair was held up in a chignon, and she had bright, amber eyes.

“Good afternoon,” she said to Jeanne, a bit coldly.

Antoine offered Jeanne a seat, and she felt that every movement she made might trigger some sort of derogatory comment after she left. An awkward conversation followed.

“My son tells me you live in Cotignac,” the old lady said. “I often went there when I was young. It’s a beautiful region.”

As they traded banalities, Jeanne took in the stuffy and expensive environment that Antoine’s mother seemed to enjoy. She noticed the heavy velour drapes in the windows, the busy wallpaper, and the knickknacks everywhere, as well as the many photos of a man who must have been Antoine’s father.

“And this estate you’re taking care of,” Mrs. Laferrière said, “it must be a burden for someone your age.”

“I don’t have any choice.”

“Are you optimistic about things?”

“I have to be.”

“I understand you’re living alone.”

“My brother is going to return soon.”

Jeanne was offered a cup of tea. More and more ill at ease, she wondered what she was doing in this house where, obviously, she wasn’t welcome.

“It just seems odd to me that a proper young woman should live like this,” Mrs.
Laferrière said.

“Live like what?” Jeanne snapped back.

“Come now, young lady … Don’t get angry.”

“I am angry,” Jeanne said, “and I’m leaving.” She grabbed her handbag and gloves.

Antoine rose to his feet.

“What is it, Jeanne?” he asked.

“It’s your mother. She decided, even before meeting me, that I wasn’t worthy.”

“That’s not true. You’re wrong!”

“No, I’m not,” Jeanne said. Turning to Clotilde Laferrière, she added, “Have a good
day, madam. …”

Then she walked out of the room.

Antoine ran after her and blocked her way before she reached the front door.

“I beg you … It’s a misunderstanding. … If you care about me just one bit, don’t leave. … Not this way.”

“Just so that things are clear between us, you should know that I’m never going to bow to any hypocritical bourgeois conventions. Your mother dreams of a docile young woman for you. That’s not me.”

“I don’t care what my mother thinks.”

“So why was it so important for me to meet her, then?”

Antoine looked so sad that Jeanne felt tenderness toward him for the first time, and she caressed his cheek. Still, the gap that had existed between them was now wider than ever. Life’s hardships had taught her to be independent, to refuse to play other people’s games, and she insisted on being accepted for who she was.

“Let me go,” she told Antoine.

“Antoine!” Mrs. Laferrière called out from the living room.

Antoine took Jeanne’s hand and led her to the street.

“I’ll walk you to the train station,” he said.

“You don’t have to. Besides, I feel like walking around town a bit.”

“I’m going with you.”

They wound up sitting on the terrace of an ice cream shop. Jeanne’s face was still red from anger, and her eyes shone bright.

“Jeanne,” Antoine said, “why are you always trying to hurt me? What’s the point?” Without giving her the chance to answer, he added, “It’s as though you were trying to punish me for something someone else did to you. Am I wrong?”

Caught off guard, Jeanne hesitated before saying, “I’m not trying to punish you, but I
can’t pretend to be someone I’m not. …”

She leaned toward him and spoke softly. “Antoine, open your eyes. I’m not the right woman for you. I need freedom, responsibilities.”

“But you’d have responsibilities.”

“Yes, whichever ones you chose to give me.”

“You could have anything you wanted. I swear!”

She knew he was being sincere, but unfortunately he didn’t trigger in her the sort of fervor and passion that Régis had. Antoine was a kind man, a nice man, someone without a fire inside. And Jeanne, full of contradictions herself, was scared that she’d be bored to
death with him.


In the aftermath of World War I, a family estate hangs in the balance.

For generations, the Barthélemy family tended to the olive trees of Restanques, a sprawling property in Cotignac whose olive oil and almonds were as incredible as the countryside that produced them. But all that changed when war came to France. Robert Barthélemy never returned from the trenches, and without him, the farm is beginning to die. His widow has lost the will to live, and only the fierce efforts of their daughter, Jeanne, have kept the creditors at bay.

Jeanne is spending an afternoon at home with the family’s grim financial statements when a handsome stranger appears on the front steps. His name is Jérôme Guillaumin and he is a brilliant botanist about to embark on a journey around the globe. From the moment they meet, Jeanne is struck by feelings she never thought possible: feelings that could save her life or destroy everything she has ever known.


In the Shade of the Almond Trees - Dominique Marny

Dominique Marny
was raised in a family that loved art, literature, adventure, and travel. In addition to being a novelist, she is a playwright and screenwriter, and writes for various magazines.

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The game isn’t over.

Art dealer Marc Perron relocates to London with his lover, singer Sera Durand, to protect her from past mistakes. Blackmailed by a gangster, he must return to Paris, leaving Sera alone and vulnerable. Forging a precious painting may be his only chance at survival, but if he’s found out, the consequences will be deadly.

Without Marc, Sera struggles in an English-speaking country, coming face to face with his lies, his sexual past, and her own misdeeds. Finding a job at a jazz club called ‘Sanctuary’ is anything but, as she is not safe from her new boss, or the disturbing man who spies on her every move.

Once more, the lovers must play the game, but the stakes are higher than they imagined…