To appreciate this novel is to recognize that it is written with Gallic sense and sensibility. That is to say, it is not a linear story with a predictable arc that reaches a climax and culminates in a resolution. In substance and style it is a novel of process, of conversation, of debate. It is, like the culture which it represents, maddening, thoughtful, intriguing, and seductive.
To enjoy this novel is to not expect a romance or a comedy- for it is not- but to delight in the romantic or comedic moments when they occur.
To read this novel is to be reminded that none of us truly knows another’s marriage, even that of a close friend, a sibling, or a colleague with whom you spend more time than your own spouse.
Enough About Love is a perfect title. It sound like a command, as in “Enough, already!” or “Let’s not talk about it anymore!” It could be the plea of psychoanalyst Thomas Le Gall, who pays off a small villa in Italy by listening to the angst-ridden memories and confessions of his patients. It could be the irritated and guilty brush off by stunning Anna Stein, a just-forty psychiatrist and mother of two, of her husband, the devoted Stanislaus. It could be the impatient demand of lithe Louise Blum, hot-shot attorney, as she instructs her husband, biologist Romain Vidal, on the fine art of speech delivery. It could be the jaded sigh of esoteric writer Yves Janvier, disagreeing with the suggestion that his next novel should have “love” in the title, to attract more readers.
These characters’ lives intersect; whether in a therapist’s office, in a café, on a sidewalk, or in a bed, the smallest ripples of chance force waves of change. By meeting, they are each compelled to examine their belief in love and where it diverges from passion or converges on friendship.
Le Tellier manages to make you care about characters whose lives are vastly removed from most. These are exceptionally attractive, successful, well-read, well-bred Parisians- conditions determined by birth into France’s upper-middle class, largely unavailable even to the hardest-working. The women live up to the impossible French notion of the ideal woman: she who brings home the bacon, fries it up in pan, and never lets Monsieur forget he’s a man. The men are allowed more diversity: a paunch in the belly, a thinning pate, weaker of character and of heart. For this I fault the male and the French in Le Tellier and the American in me. Perhaps his French readers expect no less; I weary of female characters whose physical perfection turns them into caricatures.
Le Tellier, through his intellectual-elite characters, also brings out the question of Jewish identity and French remorse and guilt about the treatment of Jews in France during the Second World War. At times it is poignant, at times shocking how contemporary France embraces and rejects its Jewish past and present.
Considering the style of Enough About Love: there is enough conventional novel structure to seduce you into a story of love and infidelity. But anticipate being walked through a maze of literary flourishes: a chapter that is one long inventory of Anna’s clothing purchases; a speech and an internal dialogue that run simultaneously for several pages, mirroring a game of Abkhazian Dominos – a game that takes on a life of its own within the story; a love sonnet composed of forty distinct memories. An anonymous and omniscient narrator is so close to the characters’ innermost identities his or her revelations border on the more intimate second person narrative.
This is a quick read, but it is not light. There is a beautiful economy of words that is so quintessentially French – I commend the translator Adriana Hunter for the conveying the precision and clarity of the French language in the rich and muddled mess of English.