cover image The Woman in the Row Behind

The Woman in the Row Behind

Francoise Dorner, , trans. from the French by Adriana Hunter. . Other Press, $14 (121pp) ISBN 978-1-59051-186-2

The snappy, funny first novel by French playwright Dorner (awarded the Prix Goncourt du Premier Roman last year) observes the sad, sweet machinations of a bored young working-class Parisian wife. Frustrated that her new husband, Roger, no longer seems to appreciate her, Nina takes a few lessons from the porn mags stocked at the couple's sidewalk newsstand. She begins flirting with the customers and, wearing a black wig, black raincoat and heavy orchid perfume, follows her husband to the movie theater. Dorner's colloquial first-person narrative, which feels like a riff on an early '60s film starring Catherine Deneuve, also charmingly navigates Nina's dutiful relationships with her needy, possessive mother; unhappy childhood friend Gisèle; and the thick, unenlightened Roger. Moreover, Nina confronts the long, deeply scarring absence of her father, as this "invisible little woman" (as she mockingly describes herself) discovers the full flower of her femininity. As powerful feelings and further experimentation take hold, Dorner does a lovely job of showing the stakes in the marriage and its fault lines. (June 13)