A number-one bestseller in France, Sagan's latest novel asks: How will a person react to the news that, due to sudden illness, he has only six months to live? Such a harsh sentence is placed on Paul Cazavel, a ``prototype of the mediocre Frenchman''--a middle-aged married man, half-hearted architect, with a none-too-bright fashion model for a mistress. After learning he has incurable lung cancer, Paul first wanders through Paris, overwhelmed by a kaleidoscope of emotions--despair, self-pity, horror, denial, shame--that Sagan carefully tempers through her protagonist's caustic, self-deprecating personality: ``So these next six months were going to be not only cruel but boring,'' Paul thinks. He breaks the news to the people in his life and is dismayed by their responses: his best friend, Robert, a successful businessman, is too busy to listen; his mistress, Sonia, appears so self-absorbed that Paul realizes how much he doesn't love her. He is given a warmer reception by his one true love, Mathilde, whom he finds again after many years and who receives him with open arms; but his cold-hearted wife, Helene, is clearly thrilled to get rid of him. Sagan seems keenly aware of ``the melodramatic, ridiculous paradox'' that has imminent death returning Paul to his appreciation of life; at times, Paul gets ``the feeling he was playing a role in some comedy.'' But for all his ironic existential musings, Paul and his situation remain contrived and overblown--a fate the novel's cliched, easy-out ending only seals. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/04/1995 Release date: 09/01/1995 Genre: Fiction
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