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The Only Son Hardcover – September 8, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A fictionalized account of the life of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's older brother, Audeguy's second novel (after The Theory of Clouds) offers a fragmented, sometimes frustrating history of François Rousseau and the momentous century in which he lived. Born in Geneva in 1705, seven years before his renowned brother, and left to fend for himself after his mother dies, François finds a mentor in the Comte de Saint-Fonds, who initiates him into a world of science and reason while simultaneously illuminating forbidden desires. After a sojourn in a Geneva prison and a brief apprenticeship to a watchmaker, François escapes to Paris, where he establishes himself among the libertines and devotes his talents to producing devices designed to further his patrons' erotic pursuits. But as the Revolution approaches, François finds that Paris is no longer a safe haven. Audeguy's precision with respect to language and detail belie the novel's faulty structure, a series of short, almost truncated scenes that keep the reader from full immersion. Still, the novel's fresh view of an oft-covered era is worth the price of admission. (Sept.)
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From The New Yorker

The older brother of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who is mentioned only briefly�and dismissively�in the French philosopher�s �Confessions,� here embarks on an autobiography of his own, tracing his progress from a watchmaker�s workshop in Geneva to a high-class bordello in Paris. He winds up making intricate sex toys, an activity that lands him in the Bastille, where he spends the next twenty-seven years in relative comfort, allowed to go out on walks (and patronize whorehouses) and to import marshmallows for his fellow-prisoner the Marquis de Sade. Full of arch asides�the hero notes that �the French are readier to pardon a murderer than a man who attacks the dignity of money��the book strives to be both a critical gloss on the Revolution and a madcap romp, with more success, ultimately, at the latter.
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