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Underground Time: A Novel Paperback – November 22, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (November 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781608197125
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608197125
  • ASIN: 1608197123
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,230,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Elle Reader's Prize Pick

"De Vigan keeps you going with lovely language... The book isn't just about these two strangers and what they have in common, it is about what all of us have in common, strangers or not." - Courtnay Glatter, Bust

"De Vigan's lucid take on the fragility of our purchase on happiness and the frenzied madness of our cities clearly comes through in this bracingly acerbic novel." - Kathryn Lang, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"[An] elegantly constructed, sympathetic, compelling, enjoyable novel." - Nicola Barr, Guardian

"De Vigan has beautifully captured the behind-the-scenes agendas of personal and professional lives... an engrossing, well-paced story that takes us into a world most of us know but rarely discuss." - Carol Gladstein, Booklist

"Delphine de Vigan's novel Underground Time reveals the psychological working conditions endured by 21st century corporate middle management employees and the loneliness, isolation, and anonymity of contemporary urban life in much the same way that Upton Sinclair's The Jungle exposed the hazardous working conditions of slaughterhouse workers and Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie portrayed sexual exploitation in urban life a century ago." - David Cooper, New York Journal of Books

About the Author


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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jill on April 1, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is life in the 21st century: Wake up and hear the noises of the city around you. Heave your body into a train car, squeezing every last inch of yourself into a vacancy. Physically contact several people during your commute; feel utterly alone. Sit at your desk and consider your work. Encounter numerous people throughout the day; connect with none of them. Push your body into the train again; stand mere centimeters from several other human beings. Return home, exhausted by your solitude, miserable from your loneliness. This is life today.

Mathilde and Thibault are professionals in Paris, a city many consider to be the most magical and beautiful in the world, but they both ache from the city's harshness. In beautiful yet disjointed passages, de Vigan describes the day of both Mathilde and Thibault. Unsatisfied with their jobs, they wander, alone, throughout the city.

Reading about loneliness is both comforting yet boring. It's reassuring to realize people have suffered from the same feelings as you, but overall, ennui isn't terribly interesting. That's why Underground Time wasn't a spectacular read for me. Nevertheless, it moves quickly and the emotions it evokes are worth more than the less than exciting plot.

This is a very French novel. Things are depicted as they are rather than how we wish them to be. It's also a very 21st century novel. Gone are novels detailing epic fights or webs of intrigue; nowadays we have these languorous, psychological works, a trend I could come to support if I can learn to spell languorous and psychology can be made more interesting.

The best part of reading this novel is determining what, if anything, de Vigan blames for Mathilde and Thibault's smothering solitude. Personally, I think we are at fault.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By jood on May 15, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book was recommended to me by a French friend, who has read several of the author's book in her native French. Once I read the book (in English), I have not stopped talking about it. The story is occasionally maddening and you might think a bit trite, but the author knows exactly where she is going. I recommend this, especially to book clubs because this is a book you will want to discuss. Another good one by the same author is No and Me, a young adult novel, but to me, enjoyable at all ages.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mrs B. M. Owen on April 25, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Almost impossible to put down. Well drawn characters and an utterly convincing plot. My sympathy was so fully with the protagonist in the story that I ached for her.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Adriana in Los Angeles on May 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
I won this novel in a random giveaway on another website, and I absolutely loved it. This was such a well wrought novel with beautifully crafted sympathetic characters; it was a genuine pleasure to read. It reminded me of some of the darker stories by Maggie O'Farrell, only much bleaker. That's both good and bad. Delphine de Vigan so perfectly captures the despair of day-to-day existence when you live in a big city and feel disconnected from everyone around you.

Two people, strangers to each other, Mathilde and Thibault, go about their day. It is exquisitely heartbreaking to accompany them as they force themselves to make it through yet another day. Both are desperate to connect to someone else, and they would both obviously benefit from having each other in their lives. And then their paths finally cross. . . .
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Craobh Rua on November 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
Delphine de Vigan is a French writer from Boulogne-Billancourt, in the Parisian suburbs. Although "No and Me" was her fourth novel, it was the first to be translated into English. It was selected for the Winter 2010 Richard and Judy Book Club, which did its profile on harm. "Underground Time", her sixth book, was translated into English in 2011. It won the 2009 Prix du Roman d'Entreprise and the 2010 Prix des Lecteurs in Corsica.

The book opens with Mathilde waking at 4am. A few weeks previously, she'd been to see a clairvoyant on a (very expensive) whim and was told that her life would change on the 20th of May. Mathilde is 40 and, although she generally refers to herself as a single mother, she's been a widow for ten years. She has three sons, and has been working as the Deputy Director of Marketing in an international food company for more than eight years. She's well-educated and had always been an excellent professional. However, this last eight months have been very difficult for her. Following a minor difference of opinions with her boss the previous September, he has systematically set about attempting to destroy her. He's done a pretty thorough job : she's lost all hope, all sense of confidence in herself, suffers from insomnia and feels physically sick when faced with the day ahead. However, today is the 20th of May and, in spite of everything, Mathilde half believes that today will be a significant day.

At the very moment Mathilde wakes up, Thibault is also facing a dilemma. He's spent the weekend with Lila, his lover, in Honfleur, but they'll be returning to Paris in the morning. Lila is the source of Thibault's trouble : he loves her dearly, but she's made it clear she doesn't feel the same way.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If a reader wants to be uplifted or inspired, Underground Time is not a book to take on…unless perhaps you are an aspiring writer. Certainly this author is an exceptional talent, capable of teaching the merits of mood and complexity. For example, with a small scene in the beginning, involving a fortune teller, she plants a seed of hope for the reader and the characters. The amazing part is that seed grows up to and including the end, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

As the story unfolds, two primary characters are struggling with unrelated emotional circumstances. Both continue to be plowed under by their misery ( chapter after chapter, after chapter, after chapter). The woman is being mentally and professionally beaten down by an arrogant boss. In fact, he is devious and evil at heart. The male primary is a doctor practicing under a social health system that pays little but demands much. His not-so-romantic partner likewise invests little in him. As good and decent,
hardworking people, I liked these two characters. But they are depressingly slow to act in their own behalf.
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