Crush by Frederic Dard and Daniel Seton (translator)

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Crush by Frederic Dard and Daniel Seton (translator)

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A snappy and sassy little drama – not just for the crime shelves, as this has a look at strong characters living through base emotions. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 170 Date: October 2016
Publisher: Pushkin Vertigo
ISBN: 9781782271987

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In this story of Thelma and Louise, it's Louise we meet first, through her narration. She's a seventeen year old, telling us of a quite awful and smelly satellite town of Paris she lives in, with the sight of factories and stench of food processing plants keeping her company. She lives at home with her mother, complete with hare-lip, and abusive step-father, and is working at one of those factories until she sees a paradise in their midst – the ever-sunny, sexy and sophisticated life of an American NATO worker and his wife. Impulsively, she asks to be their maid – and indeed moves into the couple's large, messy home. But little does she know what lurks in the shadows in that building, behind their gigantic car and their cute porch swing and al-fresco dining – the unhappiness, and even the tragedy…

This is a book that is kind of belittled by being called a 'crime novel', even if it is definitely one, and one on the short side at that. For one thing there are the characters – Louise is a brilliantly-realised little minx – not too naïve, not really gamine, but definitely someone worth spending time with. She immediately takes to the housework, with a stylish way with flambéing pigeons out of revenge, economy and culinary nous. Her Thelma could come out of the pages of Tennessee Williams, with her choice of clothing as she louchely lounges about the place, drinking and listening to Elvis records. It's no wonder she met her husband on the road to New Orleans. He, Jess, is if anything a little undefined – we don't know (certainly at this remove, sixty years after this might have been current) what he actually does for NATO, but it's the world he lives in – internally and externally – that is of most concern to these pages.

And these pages rattle past – even with the crunching events of practically halfway you won't be too keen on too long a pause before you're back for more. The writing is simple, with a clarity that you wouldn't get from trying any certain, particular style, but it's all there – the humdrum life Louise is leaving, and what she hopes to get from moving in with the others, proves this work has psychological astuteness as well as great story-telling nous. As I suggested, there is a slight element of age to the book – it does date from the late 1950s, after all, but it's been translated very well, and while a little bit of the writing may have been trying to be risqué back then it's not so much that now as still about timeless, base human emotions. I'll leave you to interpret the English title of the book in regard to those emotions, as well as let you in on the French original name being The Villains. I can't tell you which is more accurate, or better, in any regard, as I don't know. I would tell you that I'd think on it – but these tightly effective little pages will be in my mind for several days to come, anyway.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Much as Gallic Books have their Pascal Garnier for taut, varied and compelling French reads, so Pushkin Vertigo have other Dard books – see about a Bird in a Cage next.

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Buy Crush by Frederic Dard and Daniel Seton (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Crush by Frederic Dard and Daniel Seton (translator) at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Crush by Frederic Dard and Daniel Seton (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Crush by Frederic Dard and Daniel Seton (translator) at


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