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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Replay

by
Marc Levy


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Replay



Title: Replay
Author: Marc Levy
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012 (Eng. 2014)
Length: 297 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Replay - US
Replay - UK
Replay - Canada
Si c'était à refaire - Canada
Replay - India
Si c'était à refaire - France
  • French title: Si c'était à refaire
  • Translated by Kate Bignold and Lakshmi Ramakrishnan Iyer

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Our Assessment:

B- : decent thriller elements and story, but a lot else (including the writing) too basic/cartoonish

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Le Figaro . 11/4/2012 Astrid De Larminat
Publishers Weekly . 7/4/2014 .


  From the Reviews:
  • "Marc Levy joue sur une large gamme d'émotions en mélangeant tous les genres: la comédie sentimentale à l'américaine, le thriller fantastique, le roman réaliste et politique. On passe de la description d'une scène de torture à une partie de jambes en l'air. Son héros a un côté M. Tout-le-Monde qui le rend attendrissant et réjouirait Houellebecq. Mais comme il a de l'humour, on le suit sans s'ennuyer dans ses aventures dignes de James Bond." - Astrid De Larminat, Le Figaro

  • "Levy’s page-turner -- as much about war crimes, children stolen from their parents, and generational secrets as about Andrew’s fate -- builds with satisfying suspense, but some readers will feel cheated at the end." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Replay starts off with a Prologue that follows the steps a killer means to take -- a deadly jab of a jogger, leading him to inevitably bleed out while the murderer escapes undetected. The novel proper then begins, in May, 2011, with a reporter for The New York Times, Andrew Stilman, meeting old high school flame Valerie for the first time in two decades. A year later his career is really taking off, he's onto another hot story -- and he proposes to Valerie. Things don't go quite as he might have hoped: two months later he gets married -- and makes a confession that leads to the immediate collapse of this new union. Shortly thereafter, on a July Monday morning, he goes out for his usual jog -- and the scenario from the Prologue plays itself out, with Andrew as the victim. There he lies dying.
       Things take an unusual turn here: looking at his watch, it says: "It was exactly 7 A.M. -- fifteen minutes before he'd been killed." But that's only half the story: it's not even July yet -- it's 7 May: "Andrew's life had just gone back to sixty-two days earlier".
       So that's an interesting premise. Of course, readers wonder how Levy is going to play this; with his reputation for super-natural twists (his best-known work in English is If Only It Were True, the basis for the 2005 film Just Like Heaven, starring Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo, goes that route, while All Those Things We Never Said also offers a variation on the life-(of-sorts-)after-death story), there is the grave concern that he'll offer some nutty supernatural explanation. (As it turns out, while not really plausible, Levy at least doesn't stretch credulity anywhere near as far as he usually does -- a welcome relief.)
       Regardless of the explanation, this is the situation Andrew (and the reader) finds himself in: knowing he's going to be killed, and with two months to figure out why. What will he do different ? And can he change the future ?
       Andrew also figures:

     "You're going to have to play it smart over the next two months if you don't want anyone getting suspicious," he told himself out loud.
       Sigh, yes, this is the kind of novel where the protagonist with the big secret reminds himslef he should be discreet out loud (and, of course, within earshot of one of his antagonists).
       Andrew recently broke a big story about Chinese orphans, taken from their parents to be put up for adoption, and the big one he is working on now is about the Argentine 'disappeared' -- some of whose children were also adopted, often by families associated with the murderous regime. He's made some people very angry -- someone came after him with a baseball bat a few months earlier -- and there are no doubt some who don't want the Argentine story to appear. Meanwhile, he has a colleague who acts suspiciously and can't stand him -- and then there's Valerie, a veterinarian (for the NYPD, no less), who knows how to wield the type of weapon that likely killed him .....
       Andrew enlists the help of a retired policeman as well as his best friend, Simon, to help him look into his death -- not entirely convincing them with his story, but convincing them enough that they're willing to go along with looking into it.
       Levy weaves a decent thriller within this preposterous framework, including a detour to Argentina, where Andrew is exposed to considerably more than he was on his original research-visit, the first time around. If the thriller-complications are a bit elaborate, Levy likes to simplify many other things: Andrew and his hated colleague interact entirely cartoonishly, for example, and indeed most of the exchanges are of the comic book sort. Disappointingly, too, Andrew (and Levy ...) don't explore or consider what it means to have a second chance very seriously, which one might think would be something Andrew would be more intrigued by; he wonders a bit, but for the most part simply stomps ahead.
       Surprisingly, Levy salvages and excuses quite a bit with his resolution -- not so much whodunnit but rather the explanation for what the hell is/has been going on with Andrew -- but with it only falling into place in the novel's final pages the effect is somewhat muted. (On the other hand, Levy has already written a sequel .....)
       Levy's writing can be grating, and some of the plot twists are far-fetched, to put it mildly (including a general reluctance to lodge official police reports for various crimes, and Andrew knowing the identity of the person who went after him with a baseball bat but not looking into that before he is pressed to). There's enough of a twisty thriller here, however, to make for a modestly entertaining read.

- M.A.Orthofer, 30 June 2014

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Links:

Replay: Reviews: Marc Levy: Other books by Marc Levy under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       Bestselling French author Marc Levy was born in 1961.

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© 2014 the complete review

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