The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles: A Novel

3.52 avg rating
( 8,618 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780143121558: The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles: A Novel

Le Divorce meets The Elegance of the Hedgehog in this hilariously entertaining mega-bestseller from France

When her chronically unemployed husband runs off to start a crocodile farm in Kenya with his mistress, Joséphine Cortès is left in an unhappy state of affairs. The mother of two—confident, beautiful teenage Hortense and shy, babyish Zoé—is forced to maintain a stable family life while making ends meet on her meager salary as a medieval history scholar. Meanwhile, Joséphine’s charismatic sister Iris seems to have it all—a wealthy husband, gorgeous looks, and a très chic Paris address—but she dreams of bringing meaning back into her life.

When Iris charms a famous publisher into offering her a lucrative deal for a twelfth-century romance, she offers her sister a deal of her own: Joséphine will write the novel and pocket all the proceeds, but the book will be published under Iris’s name. All is well—that is, until the book becomes the literary sensation of the season.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Katherine Pancol is one of France’s best-known contemporary authors, with millions of copies of her books in print in thirty languages. She lives in Paris.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***
Copyright © 2006 by Editions Albin Michel - Paris

Translation copyright © 2013 by William Rodarmor and Helen Dickinson

Katherine Pancol is one of France’s best known contempo­rary authors. The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles was a huge success in France, where it won the prix de Maison de la presse for best novel of the year. To date, it has sold some 2.4 million copies in thirty languages. Katherine was born in Morocco, grew up in France, taught school in Switzerland, and worked as a journalist at Paris-Match. She lived in new York City from 1980 to 1990 and has published two sequels to The Yel­low Eyes of Crocodiles: La Valse lente des tortues (2008) and Les Écureuils de Central Park sont tristes le lundi (2010).

 

Chapter 1

Joséphine gasped and dropped the vegetable peeler. The blade had slipped on the potato and cut a long gash into her wrist. There was blood everywhere. She looked at her blue veins, the red streak, the white sink, the yellow plastic colander where the peeled white potatoes lay glistening. Leaning against the sink, she began to cry.

I need to cry, Joséphine thought. I don’t know why. There are plenty of reasons, and this one is as good as any. She grabbed a dishcloth and pressed it on the cut. I’m going to turn into a fountain of tears, a fountain of blood, a fountain of sighs. I’m going to let myself die.

That was one solution. Just die, without a word. Fade away, like a lamp slowly dimming.

I’ll die standing here at the sink, she thought, then corrected herself. No one dies standing up. You die lying down, or with your head in the oven, or in the bathtub. She’d read in some newspaper that the most common form of suicide for women was jumping out the window. For men it was hanging. Jump out the window?

She could never do that. But to weep as she bled to death, unable to tell whether the liquid streaming out of her was red or white? To fall slowly asleep . . .

Joséphine took a deep breath, adjusted the dish towel on her wrist, choked back her tears, and stared at her reflection in the window.

Get on with it, she told herself, peel those potatoes. You can think about all that other stuff later.

It was a late May morning, and the thermometer read 82 degrees in the shade. Out on their fifth-floor balcony, Joséphine’s husband was playing chess against himself. Antoine worked hard to make it realistic, switching sides and picking up his pipe as he went. He hunched over the chessboard, blew out some smoke, lifted a piece, sucked on the pipe, put the piece back, exhaled again, picked up the piece again and moved it, shaking his head as he put the pipe down and went to sit in the other chair.

He was of average height, with brown hair and eyes. The crease of his trousers was razor sharp, and his shoes looked as if they had just come out of the box. His rolled-up shirtsleeves revealed slim forearms and wrists, and his nails had the luster of a professional manicure. He looked nicely groomed, the type of man you’d put in a furniture catalog to inspire confidence in the merchandise’s quality.

Suddenly Antoine moved a piece, and a smile lit up his face.

“Checkmate!” he announced to his imaginary partner. “Poor guy, you’re screwed. Never saw it coming!”

He got up, stretched, and decided to make himself a little drink, even though it wasn’t quite that time yet.

He usually had a cocktail around six, while watching his fa­vorite TV quiz show, Questions pour un champion. It had become a daily ritual, and he looked forward to it. Missing the show put him in a foul mood. Every evening he would tell himself that he should try out for the show himself, but things never went any further than that. He knew that he’d have to get past the elimi­nation rounds, and something about the words elimination rounds chagrined him. He lifted the lid of the ice bucket, care­fully dropped a couple of cubes into a glass, and poured himself a Martini Bianco.

Antoine followed the exact same routine every day. Up with the kids at seven, breakfast of whole-wheat toast, apricot jam with salted butter, and freshly squeezed orange juice. Next came a thirty-minute workout: back, stomach, abs, quads. Then the newspapers, which his daughters took turns bringing him before they left for school. This was followed by a careful perusal of the help-wanted ads and mailing his résumé when he saw something interesting. Then a shower and shave, selecting his clothes for the day, and finally, a game of chess.

Choosing what to wear was his morning’s most challenging moment. He had lost a sense of how to dress. Relaxed weekend style, or a suit and tie? One day he had thrown on some sweat­pants, and his older daughter wasn’t pleased when he picked her up at school.

“Aren’t you working, Dad?” asked Hortense. “Are you still on vacation? I like it when you’re all handsome in an elegant jacket, a nice shirt and tie. Don’t ever pick me up from school in sweats again, okay?” Seeing Antoine’s face fall, she softened her tone. “I’m saying this for your own good, so you’ll always be the world’s most handsome dad.”

Hortense was right. People looked at him differently when he was well dressed.

The game of chess over, Antoine watered the plants along the edge of the balcony, picked off dead leaves, pruned the older branches, spritzed the new buds with water, turned the soil with a spoon, and added fertilizer. He was quite concerned about the white camellia. He spoke to it, took extra time caring for it, lov­ingly wiping each leaf.

It had been the same thing every morning for the past year. On this particular morning, however, he’d fallen behind schedule. The chess game had been unusually tough, and he had to be careful not to lose track of time.

“Watch it, Tonio, don’t let yourself go,” he said aloud. “Get your act together.” He’d gotten used to talking to himself, and he frowned at the self-admonition. He decided to let the plants go for the day.

He passed the kitchen where Joséphine was peeling potatoes. Seeing her from behind, he again noted that she was putting on weight. When they first moved to this suburban apartment building just outside Paris, she was tall and slim. Their daughters were so little, barely reached the edge of the sink. Those were the days. He would lift up her sweater, put his hands on her breasts, and whisper things in her ear until she gave in. Jo would bend down over the bed, smoothing the bedspread all the while so it wouldn’t get rumpled.

Sundays, she would cook. Pots would be steaming on the stove, dishcloths drying on the oven door handle. Chocolate for a mousse would be melting in a double boiler. The kids shelled nuts or gave themselves mustaches with chocolate-covered fingers, then licked them off with the tips of their tongues.

Tenderly, Antoine and Joséphine had watched the girls grow up. Every couple of months they would measure them, penciling their heights on the wall, which was soon laddered with little lines followed by dates and the girls’ names, Hortense and Zoé.

Every time Antoine leaned against the kitchen door frame, he felt overwhelmed by sadness and loss, remembering a time when life had seemed to smile on him. This never happened in the bedroom or the living room; always in the kitchen, which had once held all his joy.

A book by the medievalist Georges Duby lay open on the kitchen table. Antoine bent down to read the title: The Knight, the Lady, and the Priest. Joséphine had been working in the kitchen. What used to be a hobby was now paying the bills. She was a historian specializing in twelfth-century women at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, the famed CNRS. Antoine used to make fun of her work, saying, with a laugh, “My wife is passionate about history, but only the twelfth century.” Now the twelfth century was putting food on the table.

Antoine cleared his throat to attract Joséphine’s attention. Her hair was piled on top of her head, held in place with a pencil.

“I’m going for a walk,” he said.

“Are you coming back for lunch?”

“I don’t know. Don’t wait for me.”

“Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

Antoine hated confrontation. He probably should have simply left, shouting, “I’m going out, be back in a bit.” That would have been all. He’d be in the stairway and she’d be in the kitchen with her questions stuck in her throat. He’d find some excuse when he came back. Because he always came back.

“Did you read the help-wanted ads?”

“Yeah. Nothing interesting today.”

“There’s always work for someone who wants to work.”

Work, sure, but I’m not about to take just any old job, he thought.

“I know what you’re going to say, Jo.”

“You know it, but you don’t do a thing to make it happen. You could take whatever job you can, to help make ends meet.”

He could have continued the conversation on his own. He knew it by heart: lifeguard, groundskeeper at a tennis club, night watchman, gas station attendant. But all he could think was that the phrase “making ends meet” had a funny ring.

“That’s right, smile!” she spat, glaring at him. “I must sound like a broken record, always talking about money. Monsieur doesn’t want to tire himself out for just any old job. Monsieur wants respect! And right now, all monsieur wants to do is run off to his manicurist!”

“What are you talking about, Joséphine?”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about!”

Now Joséphine was facing him, shoulders back, the dishcloth around her wrist. She was daring him.

“If you mean Mylène . . .”

“Yes, I mean Mylène.”

“Jo, stop! This is going to end badly.”

Who could have told her? They didn’t know many people in the building, but when there’s gossip to be had, friends appear out of nowhere. Someone must have seen him going into Mylène’s place, two streets away.

Joséphine was still facing him.

“You’re going to have lunch together. She’ll have made you a quiche and a green salad—a light meal because, afterward, she at least has to go back to work.” Joséphine ground her teeth as she said “she.” “Then you’ll have a little nap. She’ll draw the curtains, take off her clothes, and drop them on the floor. Then she’ll climb under the white cotton lace bedspread with you.”

Antonio listened to her in shock. Mylène did have a white lace bedspread. How could Joséphine know that?

“Have you been to her apartment?”

Joséphine laughed harshly and tightened the dishcloth with her free hand. “So I was right. White lace goes with everything!”

“Jo, stop it!”

“Stop what?”

“Stop imagining things that aren’t true.”

“Are you saying she doesn’t have a lace bedspread?”

“You really should be writing novels. You’ve got the imagi­nation for it.”

He was suddenly furious. He couldn’t stand his wife anymore. He couldn’t stand her schoolmarm tone, her slouch, her shapeless, colorless clothes, her bad skin, her limp brown hair. Everything about her reeked of effort and thrift.

“I’m leaving before this conversation gets out of hand.”

“So you are going to see her? At least have the courage to tell the truth, since you don’t have enough balls to look for work, you lazy bastard!”

That last word did it. He felt anger pounding at his temples. He spit out his words so that he wouldn’t have to take them back:

“Okay, fine! I meet her at her place every day at twelve thirty. She heats up a pizza and we eat it in her bed under the white lace bedspread. After brushing away the crumbs, I take off her bra, which is also white lace, and I kiss her all over. Happy now? I warned you not to push me.”

“If you go to her now, don’t bother coming back. Pack your bags. It’ll be no great loss.”

He stumbled to their bedroom like a sleepwalker. He pulled a big suitcase out from under the bed, lifted it onto the quilt, and piled his T-shirts, socks, and underwear in it. The red wheeled suitcase was from his days at Gunman & Co., the American hunting gun manufacturer. He had been their director of Eu­ropean sales for ten years, taking wealthy clients on hunting trips to Africa, Asia, and South America to the bush, the savannah, or the pampas. In those days he was the white man with the year-round tan who had drinks with his clients, some of the wealthiest people on earth. That was when he started calling himself Tonio. Tonio Cortès. It was more masculine, more accomplished-sounding, than Antoine. He had to be those men’s equal. He was proud of being able to hang out with these people without really being one of them.

He earned a big salary and got a generous year-end bonus, a good retirement plan, and plenty of vacation days. He used to love coming home to Courbevoie. His apartment building had been built in the 1990s for young professionals like himself who couldn’t yet afford to live in Paris proper. They lurked just on the other side of the Seine, waiting for their chance to move to the elegant neighborhoods of the capital whose lights they could see at night, glittering like a neon birthday cake.

Antoine never said when he was coming back from a trip. He would just push open the front door and wait a second in the entry before whistling briefly to announce his arrival. José­phine was always absorbed in her books. The two little girls would be in their bathrobes, one in pink, the other in blue. Hortense, the pretty, sassy one, had him wrapped around her little finger. And then there was soft, chubby Zoé, who loved to eat. He’d sweep them up in his arms, repeating, “My darlings, my little darlings.” That was the ritual. Sometimes he’d feel a pang of guilt, recalling the sex he’d had just the night before. Antoine would hug them all the tighter, and the images of the other women faded. Then he’d launch into his hero act. He made up stories about hunting expeditions, including one about a wounded lion he finished off with a knife, an antelope he caught with a lasso, and a crocodile he knocked unconscious.

Then a year ago Gunman & Co. was bought out, and he was fired. That’s the way it is with Americans, he explained to José­phine. One day you’re the head of sales with a three-window office, the next you’re filing for unemployment. For a while, his generous severance package allowed him to keep up the house payments, pay for school fees, language-immersion trips, the upkeep of the car, and ski vacations. Antoine had been philosophical about it all. He was fine. He wasn’t the first person this had happened to, and he wasn’t just anybody: he would soon find work.

But after going through his savings, he felt his self-confidence wavering. Especially at night. He would wake at three in the morning, quietly get up, pour himself a whiskey in the living room, and turn on the TV. In the past, he had always felt very strong and insightful. When he first heard about the buyout and possible layoffs, he told himself that his ten years at Gunman & Co. would certainly count for something. He was the first person to be laid off.

Antoine sat on the bed and stared at the tips of his shoes. Looking for work was so depressing. He was just another number on a form. He...

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

Pancol, Katherine
Published by Penguin Press 2013-01-01 (2013)
ISBN 10: 0143121553 ISBN 13: 9780143121558
New Paperback Quantity Available: 20
Seller:
BookOutlet
(Thorold, ON, Canada)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Press 2013-01-01, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. Publisher overstock, may contain remainder mark on edge. Bookseller Inventory # 9780143121558B

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
4.68
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 4.55
From Canada to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

2.

Pancol, Katherine
ISBN 10: 0143121553 ISBN 13: 9780143121558
New Quantity Available: > 20
Seller:
Paperbackshop-US
(Wood Dale, IL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description 2013. PAP. Book Condition: New. New Book. Shipped from US within 10 to 14 business days. Established seller since 2000. Bookseller Inventory # VP-9780143121558

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
6.47
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 3.02
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

3.

Katherine Pancol
Published by Penguin Random House
ISBN 10: 0143121553 ISBN 13: 9780143121558
New Quantity Available: > 20
Seller:
INDOO
(Avenel, NJ, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Random House. Book Condition: New. Brand New. Bookseller Inventory # 0143121553

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
7.26
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 2.65
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

4.

Pancol, Katherine
ISBN 10: 0143121553 ISBN 13: 9780143121558
New Quantity Available: 5
Seller:
Pbshop
(Wood Dale, IL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description 2013. PAP. Book Condition: New. New Book.Shipped from US within 10 to 14 business days. Established seller since 2000. Bookseller Inventory # IB-9780143121558

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
6.98
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 3.02
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

5.

Pancol, Katherine
Published by Penguin Books 12/31/2013 (2013)
ISBN 10: 0143121553 ISBN 13: 9780143121558
New Paperback or Softback Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
BargainBookStores
(Grand Rapids, MI, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books 12/31/2013, 2013. Paperback or Softback. Book Condition: New. The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles. Book. Bookseller Inventory # BBS-9780143121558

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
10.46
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

6.

Katherine Pancol
Published by Penguin Putnam Inc, United States (2013)
ISBN 10: 0143121553 ISBN 13: 9780143121558
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
The Book Depository US
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Le Divorce meets The Elegance of the Hedgehog in this hilariously entertaining mega-bestseller from France When her chronically unemployed husband runs off to start a crocodile farm in Kenya with his mistress, Josephine Cortes is left in an unhappy state of affairs. The mother of two--confident, beautiful teenage Hortense and shy, babyish Zoe--is forced to maintain a stable family life while making ends meet on her meager salary as a medieval history scholar. Meanwhile, Josephine s charismatic sister Iris seems to have it all--a wealthy husband, gorgeous looks, and a tres chic Paris address--but she dreams of bringing meaning back into her life. When Iris charms a famous publisher into offering her a lucrative deal for a twelfth-century romance, she offers her sister a deal of her own: Josephine will write the novel and pocket all the proceeds, but the book will be published under Iris s name. All is well--that is, until the book becomes the literary sensation of the season. Bookseller Inventory # LIB9780143121558

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
10.65
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

7.

Katherine Pancol
Published by Penguin Putnam Inc, United States (2013)
ISBN 10: 0143121553 ISBN 13: 9780143121558
New Paperback Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
The Book Depository
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Le Divorce meets The Elegance of the Hedgehog in this hilariously entertaining mega-bestseller from France When her chronically unemployed husband runs off to start a crocodile farm in Kenya with his mistress, Josephine Cortes is left in an unhappy state of affairs. The mother of two--confident, beautiful teenage Hortense and shy, babyish Zoe--is forced to maintain a stable family life while making ends meet on her meager salary as a medieval history scholar. Meanwhile, Josephine s charismatic sister Iris seems to have it all--a wealthy husband, gorgeous looks, and a tres chic Paris address--but she dreams of bringing meaning back into her life. When Iris charms a famous publisher into offering her a lucrative deal for a twelfth-century romance, she offers her sister a deal of her own: Josephine will write the novel and pocket all the proceeds, but the book will be published under Iris s name. All is well--that is, until the book becomes the literary sensation of the season. Bookseller Inventory # LIB9780143121558

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
10.68
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

8.

Pancol, Katherine
Published by Penguin Books (2013)
ISBN 10: 0143121553 ISBN 13: 9780143121558
New Paperback Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Murray Media
(North Miami Beach, FL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # 0143121553

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
9.28
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: 1.51
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

9.

Katherine Pancol
Published by Penguin Putnam Inc, United States (2013)
ISBN 10: 0143121553 ISBN 13: 9780143121558
New Paperback Quantity Available: 10
Seller:
Book Depository hard to find
(London, United Kingdom)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Le Divorce meets The Elegance of the Hedgehog in this hilariously entertaining mega-bestseller from France When her chronically unemployed husband runs off to start a crocodile farm in Kenya with his mistress, Josephine Cortes is left in an unhappy state of affairs. The mother of two--confident, beautiful teenage Hortense and shy, babyish Zoe--is forced to maintain a stable family life while making ends meet on her meager salary as a medieval history scholar. Meanwhile, Josephine s charismatic sister Iris seems to have it all--a wealthy husband, gorgeous looks, and a tres chic Paris address--but she dreams of bringing meaning back into her life. When Iris charms a famous publisher into offering her a lucrative deal for a twelfth-century romance, she offers her sister a deal of her own: Josephine will write the novel and pocket all the proceeds, but the book will be published under Iris s name. All is well--that is, until the book becomes the literary sensation of the season. Bookseller Inventory # BZV9780143121558

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
11.19
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
From United Kingdom to U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

10.

Pancol, Katherine
Published by Penguin Books
ISBN 10: 0143121553 ISBN 13: 9780143121558
New PAPERBACK Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Qwestbooks COM LLC
(Bensalem, PA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Penguin Books. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0143121553. Bookseller Inventory # Z0143121553ZN

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
11.49
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

There are more copies of this book

View all search results for this book