IN HIS ARMS

Camille Laurens, Author, Ian Monk, Translator , trans. from the French by Ian Monk. Random $22.95 (245p) ISBN 978-0-375-50652-9

Laurens's seventh novel was her breakout book: a bestseller in her native France and winner of the Prix Femina, it is also her first to be translated into English. But it will have a hard time finding its footing here. The story follows a novelist and librarian named Camille (who is also working on a novel about a woman named Camille) through therapy, and thus through the stories of her life—specifically, her loves. From her unhappy father and fond grandfather, to her schoolgirl romances and her husband, "a blend of gentleman thief and athletic boatman," to the man she's just fallen for at first sight, whom she ends up engaging as her therapist, "all my life," Camille says, "I have only been interested in men." Her troubles, among them that her parents' union and her own are marked by infidelities and that she has fallen into a consuming love just as her marriage is coming apart, seem very French, as does her solution: upsetting the rules by "seducing a man, but not by the normal approach of concealing everything from him.... But instead by telling him everything." In other words, she seduces her therapist. The sultry prose of this story-within-a-story is broken into chapters ranging from one paragraph to several pages and shifting forward and back in time and point of view (there's Camille the narrator's first-person story, and Camille the character's third-person tale); there's an homage to Barthes and a flash of Lacan. Laurens's novel is a meditation on passion and the self, but it is a self-conscious and humorless one. Agent, Lucinda Karter. (Apr.)

Correction: The agent for Dumping Billy , by Olivia Goldsmith (Forecasts, March 29), is Nicholas Ellison.

Reviewed on: 04/12/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
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