Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain and Louise Rogers-Lalaurie (translator)
|Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain and Louise Rogers-Lalaurie (translator)|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A dark and enjoyable, if too predicable, sophomore effort from one of France's finest. You will puff in pleasure – but also with some small frustration.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 208||Date: June 2018|
|Publisher: Gallic Books|
Meet Fabrice Valantine. He's a headhunter, and a successful one too, in an office in Paris. All around him however his world is changing – yes, there is a new ban on smoking in all workplaces. Goaded by his non-smoking wife, even though they met over an ashtray, of sorts, he sees a hypnotist who had success with a mutual friend in stopping their nicotine habit. The session seems to have been successful, however he faces the prospect of having such a change to his own personality, his imbued habits and lifestyle, with fear, when he realises it will never again grant him any pleasure. He needs this pleasure when further changes at work come about – but it's what he replaces the habit with that will surprise the most.
It struck me early on here that the smoking ban is a great premise for any kind of story. It's a huge yet mundane change, that affected everyone. Every employer had to weigh up the untidiness of the smokers outside their office and how far away from the front door they would need to stand with the lost productivity of them walking out the building every couple of hours for a puff; bar owners the world over let out a collective "damn, now everyone can smell the toilets." It wasn't just the odd cigar-user who faced a new situation.
As regards this particular story resulting from that huge change, I was a little too aware this was an early piece by Antoine Laurain (his second novel, in English at the age of ten). Early sections, where the narrator tries to explain the background to his smoking, struck me here and there as having something of the vaguely unnecessary. It was also peppered with too much foreshadowing of what was to come – however fun that was promising to be.
But it still had many of this author's usual Gallic details, and specifically French charms. The smoking ban finally gets in place by a most continental mix of the harridan and the office belle that all the blokes want a cinq-a-sept with. The first inhalation, one of those events in Fabrice's life that gets its own bookmarked section here, is very European in flavour. Even the cigarette smoke seems different – I only thought of it as porridge grey, but here it has hues of blue.
Beyond the French quintessence, there is the fact the book is billed as a black comedy. In a way, it is – it's certainly droll, if never laugh out loud funny. Other readers will take to the humour more – and they may be more forgiving about being a hundred pages ahead of things when it comes to one particular 'reveal'. This book stands out a little in the oeuvre of M. Laurain – it feels longer, and not quite as sharply constructed. While I don't think I'll treasure is as much as his more distinctive works, it was still a pleasure to read it. Nobody would consign this to the ash tray.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
This is best read alongside Cigarette Lighter (Object Lessons) by Jack Pendarvis – and your cancer sticks of choice.
You can read more book reviews or buy Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain and Louise Rogers-Lalaurie (translator) at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Smoking Kills by Antoine Laurain and Louise Rogers-Lalaurie (translator) at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.