Undercurrents: A Novel First American Edition Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-1565846272
ISBN-10: 1565846273
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From the epigraph (taken from a Bj”rk song) to the final pages, French sensation Marie Darrieussecq's (Pig Tales) Undercurrents (trans. by Linda Coverdale) is tinged with mystery and quiet menace. Without warning, a woman flees with her young daughter to a small, coastal resort town after emptying her and her husband's joint bank account. Someone is pursuing them but who? And why? Told from multiple, often indeterminate perspectives, this short novel though rich with detail does not give up its secrets easily, if at all. It will tantalize some readers but simply frustrate others.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Translated by Coverdale, the 1997 winner of the French American Foundation's Translation Prize, this is an atmospheric novel about a young woman who flees her husband, taking their child with her. The tale is told in a stream-of-consciousness narrative by the characters involved in the drama. The journey begins with mother and child leaving their home secretly and arriving at the beach to camp for the night. Shortly thereafter, they settle in a seaside town for the summer, and the mother takes a lover. The spurned husband sends a private detective out in search of his lost family. Throughout, the descriptions are slow and sensuous. Though Darrieussecq's books (including the recently translated Pig Tales) are best sellers in France, many readers will find that this one feels inconsequential: nothing much happens in a text consisting almost entirely of musings. Of interest to discerning readers. Cathleen A. Towey, Westbury Memorial P.L., NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 114 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press; First American Edition edition (March 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565846273
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565846272
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,343,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Darrieussecq's UNDERCURRENTS surpasses her first literary hit, PIG TALES, in both its vision and its execution. While PIG TALES dripped with sensuality as its main character metamorphosed into a erotic pig, it lost some of its momentum in the middle of the book. Not UNDERCURRENTS. This novel strengthens with every page, and by the end can even be described as a literary pageturner.
The premise here is not surreal but ordinary: a woman and her young daughter abruptly leave their husband/father to begin anew in a seaside town. The husband hires a private investigator to track them down, and the woman, unaware, leaves a crucial clue to her whereabouts. The author treats this familiar plot with images of the sea, of what it means to be lured by it, of its power. Even the private investigator settles into its rhythms, lulled by the promises of sea and sand.
Although a small book, readers will find it difficult to fly through it, mostly because of the multiple points of view (the mother, the child, the landlord, the husband, the grandmother, the private investigator), none of whom are named. The "she"'s are particularly difficult to place, mostly because the women think and feel more than act, so the reader might have trouble determining by description to whom the "she" refers. Stick with it, though, because the rewards of reading this slim volume are well worth a little concentration and deciphering.
My biggest criticism of this novel is the absence of emotion. All the characters refer to the young girl as "the child", as though she were an object, so it makes it difficult to understand why the woman took her daughter with her in the first place and why the husband wants his daughter back with him.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By peter wild on December 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
All the time I spent reading "Undercurrents" I struggled with defining for myself the constituent parts of what I would say comprise a literary novel (so unsatisfying was the reading experience, so demanding of a reason for that dissatisfaction). I would define a literary novel as a novel in which the author is overly concerned with the order of words. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. For example, a splendid vocabulary can enhance a good story (it's the vegetables to the meat, as it were). At the same time, it can work to a book's detriment: words can get in the way (I can think of at least two books I've read in the last six months - Ali Smith's "Hotel World", Don Delillo's "The Body Artist" - that can serve as good examples), such that the book - as an experience to thrill at over the course of page one to whatever - is akin to watching aphids skirt around in circles on the surface of some scummy pond. You can see what they are up to but there is not much reason to stick around.
What I'm saying is: there are good literary novels and bad literary novels; the word "literary" can be perjorative as well as complimentary. Good literary novels (such as Jonathan Franzen's "The Corrections" and Zadie Smith's "White Teeth") can dazzle you with a kind of expertise (look how much I know, see what I can make language do) without getting in the way of the fact that - hey, there are people here I'm interested in, you've got my attention due to the fact that you have created an interesting place for me the reader to spend my time.
"Undercurrents" - like "Hotel World", like "The Body Artist" - is not a good literary novel.
The premise is not bad.
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