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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Holy Innocents
(The Dreamers)

Gilbert Adair

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To purchase The Dreamers

Title: The Holy Innocents
Author: Gilbert Adair
Genre: Novel
Written: 1988
Length: 149 pages
Availability: as: The Dreamers - US
as: The Dreamers - UK
as: The Dreamers - Canada
Innocents - France
Träumer - Deutschland
Soñadores - España
. .
DVD: The Dreamers - US
The Dreamers - UK
  • The Holy Innocents was re-published as The Dreamers
  • The Holy Innocents was made into a movie in 2003, I Sognatori (The Dreamers), directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and starring Michael Pitt, Louis Garrel, and Eva Green

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Our Assessment:

B+ : well-written, entertaining, bizarre

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Punch . 16/9/1988 Paul Taylor
The Spectator B+ 10/12/1988 Nicholas Lezard

  From the Reviews:
  • "Nothing is as revolting as it might be here; everyone, Adair included, seems to be having so much fun." - Nicholas Lezard, The Spectator

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:

       The Holy Innocents is the story of three young cinephiles, Matthew, an American studying in Paris, and the French twins Guillaume and Danielle. Set in the tumultuous months of 1968, it is a story of obsession and youth.
       The initial obsession is cinematic. Matthew is studying film, the twins are fascinated by the cinema, and they become close because of their shared interest. Spending their evenings at Paris's grand Cinémathèque they live only for the cinema. When French Culture Minister André Malraux fires Cinémathèque director Langlois, a prelude to the May uprising, the Cinémathèque is closed. A nation is thrown into confusion, but the three youngsters hardly notice: their small world has been ruined, and they do not know what to do.
       Matthew manages to establish a relationship with the twins beyond the confines of the Cinémathèque -- though it is initially still cinematically centered. Invited for dinner at their house he is invited to spend the night, which he does. There he discovers that Danielle and Guillaume's relationship goes beyond the usual sibling intimacy -- and finds he is not as troubled by this as he would have expected. Attracted to both of them he moves in with them, their father -- a famous poet -- and stepmother conveniently setting off for an extended stay in the country.
       The youngsters live in their own little world, not bothering to go to school any more, playing cinematic trivia games (raising the stakes all the while), revelling in their youth. They live the lives of innocents, cut off from society and civilization. They do not wash their clothes, they steal their food, they don't care about the world around them. Oh yes, and there is a lot of sex involved. All the variations.
       They are finally thrust back into society in May of 1968, only to find the siege on the streets as Paris has risen up around them. A somewhat melodramatic ending follows, but it makes for a neat enough picture of those peculiar events of 1968, told within an unusual tale.
       Adair wants to shock, and he does, to some extent. His tale is very much one of the Decadence (and of decadence). Stylistically he tries a bit too much: the book does not show the marvelous restraint of his better, later novels. Nevertheless, it is a good read, and it is does make for an interesting take on the events of 1968.
       A film-lover himself Adair does the cinematic obsession quite well (though, surprisingly, not as well as we expected). Not the equal of his other novels, it is nevertheless worthwhile.

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The Holy Innocents (The Dreamers): Reviews: The Dreamers - the film: Gilbert Adair Other books by Gilbert Adair under review: Other authors and books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Gilbert Adair (1944-2011) wrote several novels, as well as several works of non-fiction. He also translated Georges Perec's A Void, for which he won the Scott Moncrieff Prize.

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