My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Oh, Natasha Lester has a beautiful way with words! For starters, she taught me a few new ones—bathetic, pleached—and for another she never expects me to know French, or to look it up; neither does she patronize those who do by translating. But mostly it’s her sheer capacity for imagery that makes this her best work yet. Just listen to these examples as they speak to you:
“He was very good-looking, especially with candles flickering around him, offset by a garden so fecund she could almost hear the buds opening and new shoots pushing forth, and accompanied by a bottle of wine as full-bodied as a burlesque dancer, and pâté so rustic and fresh that she wanted to eat it with her hands.”
It’s not just beauty she captures, she’s also very capable of capturing emotions such as anger and frustration; or the hollowness a person must feel on returning to normality after witnessing unspeakable horrors:
“Jess…walked out onto the street, to an assault of buses and cabs and horns and neon signs and intact buildings and people wearing colours other than khaki and carrying purses instead of weapons, unhelmeted, not a gas mask in sight, or a jeep, or a drop of blood.”
In fact, such is her power she can do it in a single line:
“The words settled on D’Arcy like a fur coat in summer.”
There is something intangibly beautiful about this book, too. Whether it’s more like Lester’s first novel What Is Left Over, After in its rawness and humanity, or whether it’s just more…I don’t know…Lester-y: it seems more of her style and personality ekes out of these pages than ever.
The story itself unfolds as more of a mystery of why than who, and is a wake-up call as to how entrenched sexism has been, and still is—shame on me: even I, a woman, assumed The French Photographer was a male.
Such is the power of this story that even when something quite unbelievable happened, an event I could pull apart with half a dozen faults, it didn’t matter. I remained entrenched in the story, blamed the ‘faults’ on the humanity of the characters, and even now have decided it’s me who’s made the mistake, not Lester.
Simply put, this is an outstanding story and one that I’m grateful Lester chose to tell.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion