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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Emmanuelle Pagano

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

To purchase Trysting

Title: Trysting
Author: Emmanuelle Pagano
Genre: Fiction
Written: 2013 (Eng. 2016)
Length: 154 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Trysting - US
Trysting - UK
Trysting - Canada
Nouons-nous - Canada
Trysting - India
Nouons-nous - France
  • French title: Nouons-nous
  • Translated by Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis

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Our Assessment:

B+ : more than just variations on a theme

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 11/11/2016 Emily Rhodes
Irish Times . 17/12/2016 Sarah Gilmartin
Le Monde . 31/10/2013 Xavier Houssin
TLS . 11/1/2017 Lorna Scott Fox

  From the Reviews:
  • "Emmanuelle Pagano arranges poetic vignettes into an elaborate mosaic about love. Each shard, stretching from a few words to the length of a page or so, captures a penetrating moment. (...) The profusion of snippets, with no main protagonist or overarching plot, makes it a difficult book to read cover to cover; instead, Pagano has created a beautiful treasury of amorous moments." - Emily Rhodes, The Guardian

  • "Objects, gestures, smells, emotions -- Trysting is a mosaic of the myriad things that define a relationship. (...) While the highs of new love are profiled, rejection and pain are a more central focus." - Sarah Gilmartin, Irish Times

  • "Paroles de femmes et d'hommes. Chaque texte est une confidence, un secret de chiffon, déplié, révélé. Une presque-honte tant les faits sont intimes, tant ils sont minuscules. (...) Emmanuelle Pagano renvoie chacun à son territoire connu. Son livre est d'une émotion ressemblante et discrète." - Xavier Houssin, Le Monde

  • "The book could be approached as an installation of sensations and things, a literary version of the investigative inventories of a certain contemporary art; the narrators convey feeling entirely through perceptions, objects and traces. (...) If Trysting asks the question "What is love ?", it also says that there’s no answer." - Lorna Scott Fox, Times Literary Supplement

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:

       Trysting -- the quite clever translation of the pretty much untranslatable clever original title, Nouons-nous -- is a collection of close to three hundred (284, apparently) short ... pieces. Ranging from single sentences to what can pass for short stories of a page or two, these are perhaps best described as vignettes. Presented in the first person, there are many voices here -- male and female, young and old, experienced and innocent, jaded and naïve --, each describing a slice of love and relationships -- happy as well as unfulfilled or lost, momentary or extended, general or specific.
       These aren't quite love stories, and yet many of the vignettes sum up entire relationships, in a single scene or even sentence; a few do offer a more traditional narrative story-arc. Even as love and all the mixed emotions for the other are always endlessly complex, Pagano revealingly sums them up in her slice-of-life pieces. Love isn't reduced to anything simple -- not just, at least -- even as in many of these pieces she describes only a small part of it: a moment, turning point, reflection, or memory.
       There's tremendous variety here. While arguably in summary just variations on a theme, there's little sameness here: these aren't at all just different reconfigurations of some basic ideas or story-lines; they really are, in an impressive variety of ways, different pieces. Writing simply about love is anything but simple, too, but there's little here that's sappy -- and there are some nicely turned surprises. Pagano occasionally gets a bit cute with her inventions, but even these fit in (since it doesn't happen too often), in the constant changes of pace and tone and arc and sentiment.
       This isn't really a romantic collection, despite the love-focus. Instead, it feels more like a collection or vignettes from real life. While focused on relationships, they are also very much personal (or one-sided, if you will), in that only one perspective, the constant (and constantly changing) 'I', presents each. And while specific, and often describing what the reader generally won't have experienced him- or herself, the first-person narration and the basic universality of love and romantic engagement with (and disengagement with, and longing for) others makes the collection easily relatable: readers may not share these specific experiences, but readily understand them.
       This is a sort of story collection, without the narrative arc of a novel; there's no real beginning or end, just this series of small pieces, and so there's no real sense of a whole -- the volume could be cut down or expanded without it making much difference, and the pieces can be read in any order. In a way, it's a volume to dip in and out of, more than to read cover to cover. Still, the pieces certainly impress and it is an impressive collection.

- M.A.Orthofer, 27 November 2016

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Trysting: Reviews: Emmanuelle Pagano: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       French author Emmanuelle Pagano was born in 1969.

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© 2016-2021 the complete review

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