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Diane Johnson updates the transatlantic novel so gorgeously rendered by Henry James, Edith Wharton, William Dean Howells, and Nathaniel Hawthorne; evokes the spirit of such expatriates sojourning in Paris as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald; and mines the pathos of modern fiction in creating this wonderful and important novel. Isabel Walker, eerily reminiscent of James's Isabel Archer, is a young film-school dropout who travels to Paris to aid her stepsister, who is going through a divorce. Isabel's California cool, American freedoms, and feminist slants comingle, successfully and fractiously, with the customs, biases, and complex sexuality of modern Europe. The result modulates between introspection and hilarity, and a quick, Hollywood-inspired sweep of violent action in the end doesn't undermine the author's mastery of Old World vs. New--in fact, it provides an ironic scrim. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
It's no accident that the epigraph for this delightfully urbane social tragicomedy is taken from Henry James. Narrator Isabel Walker is a latter-day Isabel Archer, a charming, intelligent but naive American in Paris, who thinks herself sophisticated and analytical until her eyes are opened during the ironic, erotic and shocking events in the course of which she comes of age. Restless and unfocused, a drop-out from film school at Berkeley, Isabel is sent to Paris to help her pregnant step-sister, Roxy, through a difficult time: Roxy's husband, Charles-Henri Persand, has left her and their toddler daughter to run off with another woman. Isabel accepts a motley range of jobs in the American expatriate community?running errands, helping a famous writer with her files, serving at parties, etc.?and becomes aware of the jealousy and backbiting among the insular set. At first totally at sea because of the language barrier, she also gradually becomes aware that a chasm of misunderstandings and basic attitudinal differences lies beneath the cordial facade of Franco-American relationships. Meanwhile, an heirloom painting that Roxy brought to Paris is suddenly discovered to be an immensely valuable La Tour; under French law, it will be considered part of the divorce settlement. The tangled provenance of this painting creates tensions among the Walker family's half-siblings. The wealthy and powerful Persand family are also beset by a series of emotional involvements, including Isabel's own clandestine relationship with Charles-Henri's elderly uncle, a charming roue and political eminence grise. By the time the various strands of the plot culminate in surreal scenes at EuroDisney and the poubelles (refuse bins) of Roxy's apartment building, Isabel has become wiser about herself and the world, though she realizes that her point of view will always be colored by her Californian mindset. Johnson's (Persian Nights) control of her material is impeccable. The world of American expatriates is fertile territory for her ironic wit, which is both subtle and sharp. Everything here delights the reader: the sinuous plot with its rising suspense; the charged insights into family dynamics; the reflections on morality as perceived on both sides of the Atlantic; the witty asides on food, politics and sibling rivalry; the dialogue, which reflects both American and French speech patterns and social conventions; and the views of Paris itself, seen through the eyes of an ingenue who grows in sophistication as she begins to understand the reality that permeates this city of romance.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Four words sum up this author: She totally gets it!! Diane Johnson was "right on" about so many aspects of Parisian life and about the lives of Americans living in and... Read morePublished 28 days ago by Santamarina
I was disappointed in the book. I had read "L'Affaire" of Diane Johnson before, but I won't bother to read more of her writing. Read morePublished 8 months ago by EMMS
I loved it. Of course, I love any book about Americans living in Paris. Any books with a French setting for that matter. Le Divorce is sweet and peppy... Read morePublished 9 months ago by BritLit teacher
It's easy to see why this book was turned into a Hollywood movie. It has a melodramatically faltering marriage, infidelity, a hot affair involving lots of strangely significant... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Anne-Marie
This is a fun, frothy read if you want to escape to France. Isabel goes to help her pregnant sister, Roxeanne, who has been abandoned by her French husband. Read morePublished 16 months ago by L. M. Keefer
The style is not great but it's the way ms Johnson writes her characters that brings this novel down. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Paula de la Cruz
I tried. I really tried. The constant use of French phrases throughout got tedious and pretentious. I do know some basic French, but hey, not that much. Read morePublished 24 months ago by Pat Gallagher