Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes and Frank Wynne (translator)

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Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes and Frank Wynne (translator)

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Megan Kenny
Reviewed by Megan Kenny
Summary: Vernon Subutex is a vicious, incendiary roar of a novel from the ever challenging Virginie Despentes. Featuring all the hallmarks of Despentes' interminably provocative style this is a fearless, funny novel exploring society, sexuality and the true price of fame.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: June 2017
Publisher: Maclehose Press
ISBN: 9780857055415

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Vernon Subutex is a wanted man. Following the death of Alex Bleach, Vernon's generous benefactor and publicly adored musician, Vernon now has the last recordings of Alex's drug induced ramblings. Kicked out of his apartment the story follows Vernon as he couch surfs his way across Paris, pursued by journalists and media moguls desperate to cash in on Bleach's death. Eventually finding himself out of luck, friends and money Vernon is left sleeping rough, half mad and forced to bear witness to a shocking act of violence. In a world of capricious friends and grasping avaricious journalists who can Vernon trust?

As with all Despentes' work, Vernon Subutex may be challenging for some readers. Never one to shy away from the seedy underbelly of life, Despentes creates vivid, often intensely unlikeable characters and expertly wields all the tools in her arsenal from gaudy descriptions of sex to blunt, graphic monologues of hate spewed by far right bigots. It would be fair to say that this is not a book for the faint of heart, however Despentes' strength is that, even when creating characters who spew venom and vitriol, she never manages to alienate the reader. Instead, it is clear to see the ridiculous, overblown and insecure foolishness driving such characters and to view them within the context of the world Despentes' holds a mirror up to; a world of uncertainty, economic crisis and missed opportunity, fair weather friends and crushing boredom. She returns to familiar themes here - sex, alienation, youth and fame with her trademark nihilism and cynical flair. The characters here are all struggling with the need to be recognised in a world which feels aggressive and indifferent, struggling to find their place in a country which is in turmoil. From Vernon, who's bohemian dream has come crashing down as a result of the recession to Pamela, a former porn star desperately scrabbling for a new identity and Patrice, a man of violence, left bereft and alone as a result of his inability to control his fists. These are the everyday lives so often marginalised within literature, the day to day reality of many people worldwide which Despentes' illuminates with ruthless clarity.

As you may have guessed this is not light reading. The themes tackled in Vernon Subutex are intense and the essentially bleak nature of the world Despentes' creates is not an easy place to inhabit. However, I loved it, as I have loved all Despentes' work to date, and devoured it in next to no time. Whilst her style may not be easy going it is brutally honest and powerful, she is fearless and ferocious in her writing style and is uncompromising in her approach to the world around her. As a work of social satire, Vernon Subutex is a vicious commentary on modern life in France and highlights the growing tensions between people in the face of poverty and cultural unrest. If you like your books challenging and thought provoking and your characters unsettling and deeply real this is the book for you.

You may also like The Acid Test by Elmer Mendoza, a commentary on life in contemporary Mexico, filled with Narcos, machismo and violence.

Buy Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes and Frank Wynne (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes and Frank Wynne (translator) at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes and Frank Wynne (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes and Frank Wynne (translator) at Amazon.com.


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