a sly, wry novel about how hard it is to do good
Sonia is finally settling down. With her husband Julian, she buys a flat in an apartment block in an up-and-coming quarter of the city. And she is pregnant with her first child. Family life begins and it feels good.
Yet her new apartment, it is soon obvious, is not the haven she had hoped. And Sonia's beliefs in a decent, peaceful world, her disgust over racism, over poverty, soon make life very difficult for her as she allows herself to be drawn into a vicious and deeply unpleasant war between the odious apartment caretakers and a sad, lost widower who reaches out to her for help. When the threats and bullying slide beyond her control, Sonia is forced to realise that the cruelty of the world cannot simply be covered up with good intentions.
With sly wit and a misleadingly light touch, Agnès Desarthe has created an unsettling picture of the world through an apartment building and shown how, with the best will in the world, it can sometimes be the hardest thing of all to tell the good guys from the bad guys.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Good Intentions is French author Agnes Desarthe’s second novel to be translated into English following the critical success in the UK of Five Photos of My Wife. Like its predecessor it is a concise, elegant dissection of the anxieties of daily life, which opens benignly enough by introducing us to a young couple, Sonia and Julien, who have recently moved into a seemingly unexceptional block of flats in Paris. However, what begins as a wry ensemble piece about the various eccentric inhabitants of the apartment block mutates into something far more disturbing. Sonia befriends an old man, Monsieur Dupotier who, following the death of his wife, becomes increasingly dependent on Simone, the caretaker, and her sadistic brother, Simono. Initially Sonia is repulsed by the filth of Monsieur Dupotier’s neglected apartment; however, as she learns of Simone and Simono’s bullying of the old man she embarks on a bitter battle with the police and social services to secure more humane treatment for Monsieur Dupotier.
Hugely controversial in its native country, Good Intentions paints a bleak picture of a Paris that is divided by the seemingly insuperable fault lines of race, class and poverty. Sonia, a Jew, feels constantly threatened by the latent anti-Semitism that threatens to boil over in her arguments with Simono. And yet, as a middle-class professional, she too is guilty of displaying distaste for the habits of her poorer, less well-educated neighbours. The novel isn’t intended to be an angry polemic about the state of the nation though; rather it is an examination of how one individual tries to respond to this cycle of ignorance and suspicion. Inevitably Desarthe asks more questions than she answers but she nevertheless succeeds in carving out a trenchant and often wickedly funny portrayal of the vicissitudes of urban living. --Jane MorrisReview:
‘Desarthe’s fourth novel is as sly and as subtle and as engrossing as her most recent, “Five Photos of My Wife”. But it does more than entertain and provoke, it speaks volumes about attitudes both private and public…intelligent, honest and unsettling.’ Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times
‘Desarthe deftly and mercilesly uses Sonia’s ordinary desires and concerns to pave an elegant road to hell.’ Alice Ferrebe, Scotland on Sunday
‘Desarthe has a style…which is consistently beautiful.’ Alan Gorham, Aberdeen Press & Journal
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description Flamingo, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0007100957