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on February 8, 2011
In true Oulipo fashion, Hervé Le Tellier's latest novel, Enough About Love, is a constraint-filled endeavor. With a structure inspired by a game of Abkhazian dominoes, Le Tellier's six protagonists combine and recombine in every possible two-person configuration in short chapters titled according to their major players (e.g., Yves and Anna, Thomas and Louise). The chapters follow quickly upon one another and, as they are often dominated by dialog, give the flavor of a dramatic performance rather than a traditional novel. Indeed, Enough about Love would make for a very entertaining play, and Le Tellier's self-imposed constraints never get in the way of the story.

The novel's main action consists of two overlapping love triangles involving two married couples and two single men, all middle-aged. The constantly morphing relationships illustrate various forms of love, including married love, adulterous love, and jealous love. The overall effect is kaleidoscopic, the characters' ever-shifting emotions and interactions slide against each other to reveal different shades and nuances. Enough About Love's complex structure supports and enhances its story, and Adriana Hunter's adept English translation delivers all the playfulness and complexity of the original.

Within the novel's larger framework, Le Tellier cleverly embeds a couple stand-out set pieces. One is a public reading by Yves of an essay he wrote on "foreignness" juxtaposed in two-column format with a running internal monologue by Yves's lover's husband, who's decided to attend the reading in an act of curiosity or martyrdom or both. The second set piece is a book written by Yves's for his lover Anna composed of forty of Yves's most significant memories of Anna. In an audacious move, Le Tellier includes Yves's entire book (all 25 pages of it) within this novel. The result is a stunningly intimate portrayal of love, leaving the reader feeling like a voyeur who stumbled upon an open bedroom window, uncomfortable and thrilled at the same time.

The two female protagonists, Anna and Louise, share too many similarities, including fashion tastes, high-powered careers, and dominant personalities. More contrast would have been welcome in these characters, but this is a small complaint in a book filled with so many wonders. Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon February 7, 2011
This novel, set in Paris in the decade of the 2000's, is structured almost as a study of how marital stagnation and ennui can fuel a sudden risky, passionate response towards someone who unexpectedly appears in one's life with irresistible physical and intellectual presence - who represents a way out. The reader is drawn in by the series-of-snapshots construction of the book, requiring that a collection of recorded short scenes involving different pairings of characters - like brief acts in a play - be combined to form a finished novel.

The novel has a distinct upper middle-class vibe. The two leading characters are well-educated, highly refined, forty-something Anna, a psychiatrist, and Louise, a lawyer. Anna's husband is a noted surgeon and Louise's husband is a renowned scientist. Louise does not know Anna, but coincidentally it is Anna's psychoanalyst, Thomas, who has taken her breath away. In Anna's case, she has become totally infatuated by whimsical, lesser-known, writer, Yves.

The author captures so well the intoxication that overwhelms these connection-starved women. In a series of vignettes, the excitement, the simple, lusty pleasures, of the first few weeks of meeting are glimpsed. But there are sobering considerations when their thinking turns to the question of whether a new life with their lovers is possible. The past must be reassessed - is love truly gone. Can disrupting a family be justified? Can their lovers really meet their expectations, will they disappoint? Those considerations do have an impact in this story.

Two of the more poignant scenes are where the husbands first see or meet their rivals. Anna's husband secretly attends an address given by Yves, on, of all things, the meaning of "foreign," only to discover Anna in attendance in a front row seat. Louise's husband schedules a session with Thomas under a false name, which fools no one. The author also uses an inventive technique of splitting a few pages into columns to show simultaneous trains of thought on a particular matter.

The story is very compelling; Anna and Louise are sympathetically portrayed, though their shortcomings are not ignored. By design the story is presented in almost outline form - a definite "facts-only" motif. In that structure, much gets left out, such as any real feel for the husbands. But in relatively few brush strokes the author captures the emotional, irrational, unstoppable pull of desire once unleashed. The author's conclusion is hardly one that tragedy has occurred. It is more that desire is real and maybe for the health of the human psyche it must be fulfilled. There may be some broad social lessons there regarding monogamy and affairs.
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Thomas loves Louise, a lawyer. Louise is married to Romain, a scientist. Louise loves Thomas. Yves, a writer, loves Anna. Anna, a psychiatrist, loves Yves, a man she found "unsettling." Anna is married to Stan, an ophthalmologist. Thomas is Anna's psychoanalyst. No, this isn't an LSAT logic problem or a torrid soap opera. These are the characters that comprise Le Tellier's urbane, au courant Paris comedy, a droll romp that is nevertheless intimate and complex within the playful pages. It's packed with contagious quotes that you want to spread:

"Everyone should have analysis. It should be compulsory, like military service used to be."

Or, let's say you are jealous of a woman and want to share a canny reproach with a friend:

"She sees herself as slim, lives being slim as synonymous with being rigorous. Gaining weight, she is convinced, is always a lapse."

Lots of light, saucy bon mots flash through this story, but there are small earthquakes that convulse now and then. At 228 pages and 51 short chapters (and an epilogue), most chapters are structured in pairs, such as "Thomas and Louise" and "Anna and Yves," alluding to couples, as well as Abkhazian dominoes, a game that is close to Yves' heart. "He is a writer who has readers, but not a true readership." He may obscure himself further by titling his next novel after that titular game.

Throughout the wry novel, the coupling and uncoupling of husbands, wives, and lovers overlap and cross, and sometimes meet. The themes and ideas may be common but the characters are genuine and close. The dialog is inspired, not prepared or clichéd. The prose slides creamily off the tongue, like a filled croissant, and is peppered with paradox and the double entendre, pointed aphorisms and learned allusions. And life can be turned into aphorisms, instructs Thomas to his patient, Anna, as a way of fixing life into words.

"...what attracts us about another person has had more to do with what makes them fragile...Love is kindled by the weakness we perceive, the flaw we get in through, wouldn't you say?"

There's a gravitas that manifests subtly, an accretion of observations and details that examine love from every curve and angle. You can visualize this dialog-heavy book as a film, or a play. There is no way not to compare Le Tellier to the best of Woody Allen--a little bit Lubitsch, a little bit Jewish, some Annie Hall, some Stardust Memories, a profusion of Freud. But this is French, and you will imagine that you are walking through Jardin du Luxembourg or running across the Quai des Grands Augustins on a grey, Paris day. It's eclectic, though, with American as well as other infusions. The savvy prose serves up a savory atmosphere, drifting through outdoor cafés and public squares. Some of the time, though, you are indoors, near a bookcase, and often a bed...

Cultural icons, such as François Truffaut, are included, not just as a reference, but as meaning to the story at hand. Thomas emails Louise, after they first meet, that doesn't a scene in Stolen Kisses anticipate the future of email? But the scene he shares, in detail, is the buttering of his desires.

There is even a postmodernish, double-column chapter; on one side is Yves' dry, but increasingly inventive lecture of the word "foreign," with emphasis on the fact that the French have only one word for it, l'etranger. Juxtaposed on the other side is the cuckolded Stan, seated in the back row, agonized in a stream of invective consciousness. The linguistic stunt work by the author is more than a showcase; it concludes in a probing, poignant place of alarm and discovery.

The characters in these triangular love affairs share universal elements-- sex and death, guilt and virtue, grief and ecstasy, illusion and certainty, passion and ennui. And, of course, love. But enough about love.

Eminent credit goes to Adriana Hunter for her luminous translation from the French.
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on October 11, 2011
Two Parisian shrinks -- Anna, 40-something with a couple of kids and an eminent physician husband, and Thomas, 40-something but still single following the suicide of a young love -- are about to leave the cool realm of the psychoanalyst's chair and fall into a hot pit of emotional upheaval that shatters their happy lives. Anna falls for Yves, a celebrated and single writer, while Thomas falls for Louise, a human-rights lawyer with a couple of kids and an eminent scientist husband. In spare yet evocative prose, Le Tellier recounts the affairs from start to finish -- the early trysts, the introductions to the children, the cuckold's discoveries and civilized attempts to confront the other man. Le Tellier is an experimental writer, interested in finding new ways to tell stories, and I did not find these characters emotionally engaging. But while emotional engagement is necessary to make me passionate about a novel, skillful writing also draws me in, and Le Tellier is a skillful writer. The paired affairs begin similarly -- married women pursued by unmarried men -- but end quite differently, and while the reader who follows their trajectories through this book won't be thrilled as the pages pass, most will be satisfied when they reach the end.
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on May 4, 2011
Enough About Love is one of those books with something so unique that I can't remember the last time I have seen it: it has a totally unbiased narrator. In fact, the voice of this book is more like a journalist. He/she sees what these characters do, and he just reports.

The opinion-less narrator is essential for this novel because most of the characters act less than morally. In fact, Enough About Love to me wasn't really about love in the truest sense of the word. It was instead about sex, secrets, and regrets. Full of affairs and psychoanalysis, this novel focuses on the negative sides of long term relationships.

Hervé Le Tellier should be commended for his quality and unique writing style. Enough About Love tackles the large question can we ever really know the other person in our relationship in a real and honest way.

But it was this honesty that made the novel difficult to read at times. Just like our real love affairs Enough About Love was gritty and complicated.
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Enough About Love is a quintessentially French novel about the vagaries and capriciousness of love. Two women - Anna and Louise - both beautiful, both married (with children) to successful and trustworthy men, uproot their lives thorough unexpected yet passionate affairs with two unusual men. Anna, married to another respected physician, falls under the spell of Yves, a writer. In the meantime, Anna's analyst, Thomas, has gotten into his own tryst with Louise, an attractive lawyer married to a much-renowned scientist named Romain.

With a structure borrowed from a game of Abkhazian dominoes - discussed briefly in one section of the book - the various characters (Anna and Louise, their husbands, and their lovers) find themselves interacting in all kinds of combinations. We see, for example, Louise with Thomas (her lover), followed by a chapter with Louise and Romain (her husband), followed by another chapter of Thomas and Romain...and so on.

There are a few chapters that stand out for their audacity and their elegance. In one of them, Yves (the author and lover of Anna) is conducting a public reading on the subject of "foreignness." In the audience is Stan (the husband) who feels like the ultimate foreigner as he puzzles why his wife would be attracted to this man and castigates himself for letting the magic slip away. The juxtaposition of these two men is displayed in a two-column "split screen", visually communicating the differences between them.

In another, Yves is signing copies of his book when a man who he presumes is Anna's husband enters the bookstore. He lectures Yves on one of the author's former books, stating, "...he also suspects she loves him because he embodies unpredictability, a sense of adventure she always longed for, but he exploits her dreams to draw her in. It's a woman thing, like Emma Bovary meeting her Rodolphe." He forces Yves to hold a mirror to himself. And, in a somewhat parallel story, Romain visits Thomas, the analyst, under an assumed name. Thomas quickly realizes to whom he's speaking and the dialogue between them becomes searingly unforgettable.

In yet a third vignette, Yves presents Anna with a book he wrote about her - Forty Memories of Anna Stein - bursting with intimacy and immediacy. As readers, we become compliant in the affair, being titillated with the passionate details.

And so, love in all its interactions is explored - married love, adulterous love, rejected love, mundane love, love that endures, love that dies out. There are many, many pithy lines and startling revelations from an author who is obviously confident and even playful in his craft.

As someone who married late in life, with an understanding of the fragility of relationships and the false euphoria of "love" flirtations, the cavalier attitude of the characters was sometimes unsettling to me. It is a testament to the power and mastery of this work that I placed my own value system aside and read on, enchanted, with no doubt in my mind that this was an intelligently-crafted, beautifully rendered work. In the end, it is a delicious read.
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on July 14, 2012
This is a book I continue to recommend. The novel is fast-reading, profound, moving, intriguing, amusing, and touching all at once. The comparison to Bob and Carol, Ted and Alice is a good one. Readers who admire originality, French lifestyle, creativity, and are open about love and sex will enjoy this novel. It is whimsical yet real at the same time. The four characters in the novel are all interesting and none stand out significantly over the others. The story shifts from four points of view (which I love) and each deepens the overall story of Love. There are parts of this book which are unforgettable, particularly the 40 or so reasons one character cites loving another character. Highly recommended for those who love life and want to read about others who also love life and choose to live life to the fullest. I am not a fan of the current dark, depressing, end of the world novels, so I appreciated the life-affirming quality of this novel. There is still much to admire and love about daily life in all its messy details. A great summer read
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on January 30, 2013
enjoyed the book alot.would read this author again.i will tell my friends about this book enough about love---good read.hope the author has more books like this one
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on May 30, 2011
Herve is a magnificent writer. Some people have trouble reading his books but I love the way he writes. He brings the character out so well.
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on July 11, 2014
I thought this was a great book. It had a very solid, almost mathematical structure, but was still a very enjoyable read.
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