cover image Pétronille


Amélie Nothomb, trans. from the French by Alison Anderson. Europa (Penguin, dist.), $15 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-60945-290-2

“Intoxication doesn’t just happen. It’s an art,” Nothomb (Hygiene and the Assassin) writes in her latest novel, dripping with champagne and mischief. The protagonist, Nothomb, is a bibulous author in search of a “comvinion” (a drinking companion) and ends up with fan Pétronille, of whom which she had already a long epistolary relationship. Upon meeting Pétronille, Amélie is bewildered by her youthful, boyish appearance and even more by her audacious and impish nature—yet still, she is certain she has found the “Chosen One” to drink with. The women drink themselves into oblivion at the Ritz, in cafes, and while skiing. Pétronille follows in Amélie’s footsteps and finds herself succeeding as an author but still cannot seem to pay the bills. Consequently, she agrees to work as a pharmaceutical test patient, which inevitably fractures the little peace of mind she has. Amélie becomes embittered by Pétronille’s obstinate and erratic nature, yet she refuses to let Pétronille destroy herself. Nothomb’s novel is full of energy. (Oct.)