Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bad Marriage News is Mostly Delivered in the Kitchen

(Penguin/Viking sends me books to review. I select a few to share.  I liked this breezy, feel-good self-discovery story and gave it four stars on Amazon.  Ms. Pancol is a bestselling author in France.)

The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol

Most bad marriage news is delivered in the kitchen while the wife is preparing a meal for the dirty dog who is about to break her heart.

So it is with Josephine, the heroine of The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles who receives the news that her unemployed, self-indulgent husband is having an affair with a manicurist.  She tells him to leave and he is happy to oblige.  Josephine has been preparing all of her life to be trod upon.  She has played the plain nerdy sister to ambitious well-married Iris. She has played the socially inept daughter to her icy mother Henriette and she even allows her teen-age daughter Hortense to pile on the insults. Did I mention that Josephine is being left with only her own tiny salary to sustain her and her two girls and without a clue how to manage the finances?  If you haven’t guessed by now from the names, this book (a huge bestseller in France) has been translated for American audiences.

The reader knows that this heap of trouble for Josephine is the perfect roadmap for a journey into the land of self-discovery, new beginnings, and “look who is laughing now.” We aren’t absolutely sure how things are going to get better for Josephine or how her detractors (family) are going to be left with egg on their face but unless the author is playing a ghastly joke we are pretty sure it will happen.  The trick in these breezy romps into “Life couldn’t get worse but oh, look, it’s better now than before” is to keep heaping trouble on the main character until we beg for mercy.  The other trick is to let us see the weak underpinnings of the supporting cast slugs who beat up on our heroine.  We want a front row seat when their downfall arrives.

Ms. Pancol delivers all of this with good pacing, a colorful cast of characters and an
interesting menu of sub-plots and dénouements. The translation is clumsy in spots especially in the transitions and idiomatic expressions but not enough to spoil the story.

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