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The Woman In the Fifth Paperback – International Edition, July 2, 2008

54 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Nail-bitingly compulsive. . . . A thumping good read. Kennedy has done it again.” —The Times

“Kennedy is a fantastic, feisty writer.” —Independent on Sunday

About the Author

Douglas Kennedy’s novels have all been highly praised bestsellers. His work has been translated into sixteen languages.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow (July 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099469251
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099469254
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,909,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Douglas Kennedy is the author of ten novels, including the international bestseller Leaving the World and The Moment. His work has been translated into 22 languages, and in 2007 he received the French decoration of Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Born in Manhattan, he now has homes in London, Paris, and Maine, and has two children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By C. Middleton on July 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
One of the essential aspects that distinguish a great novel from a mediocre one is the `engine' that drives the reader to continue turning the pages till the last one is turned. The story begins as an interesting scenario, and from there builds momentum to the point that closing the book's covers and putting it aside till the "next time" is all but impossible. This `engine' is not only the content of the story but the author's style, his/her technical expertise to ensure the reader remains with, and is compelled to, read every word. To be certain, most if not all of Douglas Kennedy's novel's have this `engine', driving the reader forward, however, The Woman in the Fifth takes this notion further, the author using all his skill to intrigue us and entertain us but also somehow making the impossible appear absolutely probable.

Harry Ricks has hit rock bottom...or so we're led to believe until he tumbles further into the abyss. The man has fled the U.S. because of a failed marriage and a scandal at the college where he taught film studies. Harry's life is in ruins and now he is down and out living in Paris; little money, has now contracted a serious flu and doesn't know a soul. One event leads to another, and he ends up living in a very low income sector of Paris, a `chambre de bonne', later is offered a "job" as a nightwatchman, where he sits in a little second story office watching a video screen. He is instructed only to let those individuals through the door that offer a particular phrase. It is obvious that illegal activities are going on below on the first floor, but he is purposefully kept in the dark, it is said, for his own protection.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Margaret M. Bell on October 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I am a huge fan of Douglas Kennedy. I have read all his novels, and bought them as gifts or lent them to friends in an effort to spread the word. I actually really enjoyed this book ... until the mystery was revealed. I felt that this ending was a real cop out when usually I can expect to be gobsmacked by the way this writer ties up his stories. I'll keep buying his books, but another denouement like this one would have me seriously rethinking that position.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By ehab_pen_amazon on December 4, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is a real page-turner. At least parts of it are. It's well written. I liked the feel of Paris that Kennedy brings out with his writing. I liked the protagonist and identified with him and his problems. So far, so good.

But... the decisions he makes towards the beginning of the book -- which set the plot in motion -- are all unbelievably stupid. To the Kennedy's credit, he realizes this and tries to build justifications for them (the character has no choice, feels nihilistic, is naive, etc.), but they don't really convince. No real person would do the ridiculous things this guy does.

The revelation about the woman took me by surprise. I really didn't know what type of book this was going to be. That was sort-of fun, but also a let-down, because it meant that anything could now happen, there are no rules.

Finally, the last part of the book is a mess. The woman seems to have a personality change. I won't give anything away, but it basically took a cool, smart, interesting character and turned her into a stereotype, and no reason is given for her to act this way.

But as I said, the writing was good. If his other books are better, I'd be happy to give them a try.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Happy Reader TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 1, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book is riveting for most of the narration. Harry Ricks decamps from the U.S. in the wake of a scandal. With not much to his name, he dumps himself into Paris. To Paris, where he hadn't been for 20 years. The scandal is expertly revealed to the reader in bits and pieces. I'm not sure I actually like Harry Ricks, but what happens in Paris, almost all of it bad, does show he has resilience.

And there's good writing, that really takes you on Harry's ride. In a dive he's rented for 3 months, after which he'll be out of money, he disciplines himself to finally write the novel he's always said he would: " 'I'll show the bastards' is a statement uttered by someone who has suffered a setback ... or, more typically, has hit bottom. But as a resident of the latter category, I also knew that, rather than being some EST-style rallying cry, it was a howl from the last-chance saloon."

By happenchance, Harry meets Margit, a woman of beauty, class, and lust. The last buoys Harry immensely. For he's living in the slums, while Margit lives in the Paris Fifth Arrondissement, wealthy middle class, where he used to be. She is the Woman in the Fifth, and there's something really really odd about her. A true mystery woman.

Near the end of the book, we find out what is odd about her and it completely threw me off. I thought this book was a great read until then, and then all I could say was, "Oh for pete's sake." I cannot explain more without giving away too much.

So, in short, the first two-thirds of the book are riveting. The ending was not.

Happy Reader
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Regis Schilken on November 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
Author Douglas Kennedy is an artist. Like a painter who uses brush strokes to flesh out a person's individuality on canvas, author Kennedy uses an abundant amout of skillful dialogue. A reader cannot help but learn about a person's character by the sheer amount of dialogue in his latest novel, The Woman in the Fifth. In my mind, this is skillful writing, not mere story-telling.

Sucked down the societal drainpipe from a scandal in his American hometown where he had been a dignified professor, Harry Ricks empties into the dregs of the Parisian scene. Is such a sewer place possible? Well in The Woman in the Fifth it is. With only the money he's succored from a bank account where he left at least half to his beloved daughter, Harry rents a gutter-like room in Paris' noir element.

Suffocating in self pity, meaninglessness, and hopelessness, Harry merely tries to pass away his life in bars, salons, and movie theaters, convincing himself he is writing a good salable novel. Realizing his bank account will run out, Harry begins working for a shady man who pays him daily to sit through the night in a second floor "office" to buzz in undesirables into the vault-like room below him. Harry knows something illicit, even punishing, is going on but is afraid to get involved even after he hears horrific agonized shrieks through the floor--so badly does he need money.

At a strange salon, Harry meets and then falls in love with an odd woman who likes his body and sexual prowess, but she can only see him at definite times on certain days of the week in her apartment on the fifth. This lovely but bizarre woman spills out her guts to Harry. She reveals that she lost both her Husband and daughter in an automobile accident years ago.
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