I am steadily making my way through the bedside pile at the rate of one book per week. I would usually get through at least two a week but I am now writing my second novel so reading time has had to be considerably trimmed. Yesterday I finished a book called Nothing Serious by Justine Lévy. The book, published originally in 2004 in France as “Rien de Grave” and published in English in 2005 as Nothing Serious, is autobiographical and caused a scandal in France upon publication.
It tells the story of Louise, a young woman who is a writer and who is suffering greatly after the breakup of her marriage. The novel deals with loss in all its forms; Louise loses her marriage, her grandmother dies, she loses her health to an addiction to amphetamines, she loses a baby, and she almost loses her sanity as she tries to cope with everything that life has thrown at her.
Her husband, an immature and exceedingly vain man called Adrien, has left Louise for Paula, a woman Louise calls The Terminator. Paula was originally having an affair with Adrien’s father and then moved onto Adrien, who then left Louise and had a baby with Paula. When you realise that this is all based upon a real situation and Paula is Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the current first lady of France, you can understand why the novel caused such a sensation when it was first published.
While allegedly having an affair with Jean-Paul Enthoven, Bruni fell in love and started an affair with his son, philosophy professor Raphaël Enthoven who was at the time married to Justine Lévy, daughter of world reknowned philosopher and French celebrity Bernard-Henri Lévy.
The portrait painted of Paula is certainly not a flattering one. Louise describes her plastic surgery in detail, calls her “a leech of a woman with a Terminator smile”. Louise’s eventual hope is that Paula ends up like the Marquise de Merteuil, outcast from society, her beauty ruined.
The writing in Nothing Serious is remarkable. The almost total lack of proper punctuation and sentence structure gives it a dreamlike hypnotic quality which underscores Louise’s obsessive state of mind. After almost unrelenting misery, the novel ends on a note of optimism courtesy of Louise’s new partner Pablo who shows Louise a new way to love and helps her regain her sense of self.
Although I was initially attracted to the book for its sensationalist reputation, I found that Lévy’s writing stands alone and is very accomplished. Lévy’s last novel, Une Mauvaise Fille, was published in France last year and I hope an English translation is in the pipeline.