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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Lovers or Something Like It

by
Florian Zeller


general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Lovers or Something Like It



Title: Lovers or Something Like It
Author: Florian Zeller
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 147 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Lovers or Something Like It - US
Lovers or Something Like It - UK
Lovers or Something Like It - Canada
Les amants du n'importe quoi - Canada
Lovers or Something Like It - India
Les amants du n'importe quoi - France
  • French title: Les amants du n'importe quoi
  • Translated by Sue Dyson

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Our Assessment:

B+ : appealing breakdown of a relationship

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       Lovers or Something Like It is a case study in love -- or something like that. In two parts and very short chapters (58, over less than 150 pages), Zeller relates and examines the relationship between a successful young solicitor, Tristan, and primary-school-teacher Amélie.
       The narrator generally hovers out of sight, but occasionally reminds readers of his presence:

The thing may seem improbable, and yet I am merely narrating what happened, nothing more.
       The approach is not entirely clinical, but for the most part the analysis is penetrating but objective, relating events and feelings without so much judging them -- though there are occasional philosophical pronouncements, on the nature of life and love.
       The books two parts are 'First Sphere' and 'Second Sphere'. As Zeller has it:
     In geometry, a "sphere" is a surface all of whose points are at an equal distance from the centre.
     Tristan is imprisoned in a sphere, since all the desirable objects that surround him are at an equal distance from his own self. He cannot decide which he wants most.
       Tristan has love-issues. He likes to sleep around, and he always has. Amélie throws his life into considerable turmoil. He sticks with her -- they move in together -- but it's not true love. Or not entirely satisfactory. And yet he finds himself puzzled:
Why had she come into his life ? And why could he not manage to leave her, take up his former life again, this life that had suited him so well ?
       Tristan has taken on a certain attitude -- "He lacked love, that was all" -- and it's served him well enough. Amélie confounds that -- not because he loves her (or doesn't he ?), but because of the pull and hold she exerts.
       Amélie, meanwhile, is a more needy creature. Because of her mother's terrible experiences, she is particularly frightened of being abandoned. Hence she is clingy -- and she does not confront Tristan when she knows he's lunched with another woman, for example.
       Lovers or Something Like It is a reflective novel, Zeller describing present and past of both characters: what formed them, what baggage they bring to the relationship, how they handle each other -- and others. It is focussed on beginnings and ends, on the memorable and the inevitable aspects of an affair, and on the small chance occurrences that can prove decisive. The success of the novel lies less with characters than with the presentation, and Zeller has a fine touch: there are echoes of Kundera here, or Alain de Botton's early fiction. Probing, re-examining (from various vantage points) the significant events, re-thinking positions: it does not make a typical relationship, but there are enough universals here to reach any reader.
       Zeller doesn't shy away even from passages like:
     She tells herself that life is beautiful, not in opposition to its ugliness, but beyond, for it is constructed like a novel, with a hidden meaning: it is not enough to turn the pages, but to allow yourself to be convinced by the mechanism of the words, the insistent mechanism that repeats itself, and repeats itself insidiously to gain access to the hidden meaning.
       Certainly, repetition is part of Zeller's method, but overall he has a confidently light touch, making the novel an appealing entertainment. More an exercise in fiction than a riveting story, there's nevertheless enough story here to readily hold the reader's interest.
       It's an attempt to grasp love and relationships in modern times, a world where:
     Love would have been the way out, but that was an old idea, incompatible with the current way the world works. Slowly, the disinterested element has been ousted from our lives. As for the affection that people generally make do with, that couldn't be enough. Nor could tenderness. Tenderness takes the form of love, while being only a caricature of it.
       That Zeller is still a young author is evident from the not-always-convincing message, but while Lovers or Something Like It is not a mature work, it is, nonetheless, impressive and worthwhile.

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Links:

Lovers or Something Like It: Reviews: Florian Zeller: Other books by Florian Zeller under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Florian Zeller was born in 1979.

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© 2006-2011 the complete review

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