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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Paris 75016

Lolita Pille

general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Paris 75016

Title: Paris 75016
Author: Lolita Pille
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2004)
Length: 189 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Paris 75016 - US
Paris 75016 - UK
Paris 75016 - Canada
Hell - Canada
Hell - France
Pradasüchtig - Deutschland
  • Hell's Diary
  • French title: Hell
  • Translated by Robert Davies
  • Hell was also made into a film in 2005, directed by Bruno Chiche and starring Sara Forestier

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Our Assessment:

D : pointless and tiresome excess

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       The title of Paris 75016 refers to the 16eme arrondissement of the city, where practically everyone apparently is incredibly wealthy and leads the same sort of life of carefree (or indifferent) excess. The narrator of the novel is Ella, who now likes to be known as 'Hell' (which is also the title of the novel in the original) a daughter of privilege who has been clubbing since she was fourteen and, having now graduated from high school, revels entirely in a dissolute lifestyle in a sort of gap year (though it's hard to imagine she'll ever go on to university or a regular sort of job).
       Hell only bothers to mention her name some fifty pages into the book -- and it hardly matters. The point of the book is to describe the lives of these not-quite adults, living and partying with their parents' money, all completely interchangeable, one cut-out figure much like the next, differentiated only by the cars they own and the designer labels they sport. Sure, some are frauds on the way out of the scene (dad's run out of cash), some are wannabes (models looking for sugar-daddies to entertain them for a night), but it hardly really matters.
       Shopping, consuming alcohol and drugs (prescription and recreational), and engaging in sex are the only things any of these characters seem to do, while the parents appear as little more than occasionally annoying (but easily tuned-out) ATMs. Some recognise that the arrangement and lifestyle isn't exactly great, such as one of Hell's friends who complains about her father:

     -- He just gave me some money to go shopping, I don't need his money., I've got a purseful. That's not going to make me feel better anyway, I've been on Prozac since I was fifteen, I need pills now to fall asleep, I go out every night, I drink, I sniff, I go into hysterics, I cry, I scream, and all he can do is give me money, money, money, I'm sick of it, look !!!
       Right, it's all the parent's fault for not listening to the kids' cries for help. At least Hell admits when listening to this: "In point of fact, I couldn't care less about her little problems." Empathy is a foreign concept to everybody in the book, each character so completely self-absorbed and obsessed that it's a wonder they bother having anything to do with one another. Other than validation of sorts -- recognition (or jealousy) that one has a piece of fashion or a car that implies a certain status -- and meaningless sex they get nothing from each other -- but those are two things they desperately need.
       Aside from the partying, etc. Hell does make a brief detour along the way for an abortion, but it barely warrants a mention. One imagines she'd spend more time discussing a visit to the hair salon. She's so numb that there's no emotional reaction at all, the abortion just an annoying errand she has to run.
       At least she knows she is pretty much incapable of emotion, recounting at one point:
I try to cry, and can't, but even with dry eyes it's all so confusing.
       The reader is more likely to have had success, shedding tears of anger and frustration. Yes, it is all so confusing: Hell describes a life of partying and excess, an empty life that she says she recognises is empty but can't be bothered to fill. It's hard to see what the problem is: Hell and her friends revel in this lifestyle -- and, especially, in complaining about the emptiness. Alternatives don't figure. That and their smug sense of superiority wouldn't even be that bad if they really believed that they were better than everyone else and were living life the way it should be lived. Instead they're all whiners and moaners and complainers, especially Hell. Trapped in a hell of her own making (well, she'd probably blame mom and dad, too) she nevertheless can't even imagine righting her life and certainly never tries to do so.
       Pille piles on the descriptions of this life -- jumping in cars, speeding from club to club, taking drugs, the petty jealousies, the waste of money -- and while she doesn't do it particularly well, at least at moments it's fun, especially when Hell is condescending and rubs it in the readers face that s/he'll never enjoy (if that's the right word) this kind of lifestyle. But overall this gets pretty boring pretty fast (maybe part of Hell's point, as even she complains of how boring this all is). Still, it would have been preferable for Pille to focus on this path to destruction; instead, she offers hell a brief opportunity at redemption. Yes, Hell falls in love:
     I had fled the very idea of love, castigated it at every turn of the road. But that was before Andrea came into my life. And now we're one spirit sharing two bodies
       He, too, was a dissolute soul, but he and Hell finally hit it off and wander off into the sunset together. They abandon their wild ways -- bringing the book to a screeching halt (or at least a lumbering intermission). Their separation from all they knew and reveled in isn't convincing, and Pille doesn't really know what to do with them for the six months they're together. Inevitably they do wind up going back to an old haunt, inevitably jealousy and lust and indifference rear their ugly heads, and it's back on the all-night partying roller-coaster. End of relationship.
       In an attempt at a romantic (?) twist, Pille has them cross paths again -- and then switches, for one chapter, to Andrea narrating the story. His point of view is similar to Hell's, and it's all done for effect, his narrative coming to an unsurprising wham-bang close -- a detour that doesn't work out well for anyone involved (including any reader that has bothered getting this far). Then it's back to moaning Hell: "We're back in the theater of life, but more dead, really, than alive. Animate cadavers", etc.
       Her occasional self-loathing can be fun -- readers surely loathe her, so it's nice to find everyone is in agreement -- but it gets a bit circular and self-defeating. She can't come up with anything better by the end than to conclude:
I look forward to a future of boredom and suffering, since I'm too cowardly to put an end to my days. I'll just go on: clubbing, snorting, drinking and persecuting the fools of the world.
       Suicide is the only (melodramatic) alternative she can imagine, which is obviously part of her problem. As is, her self-destructive path is sort of a suicide-lite -- suicide without the actual physical death. Her complete inability to conceive of life being any other way is the major failing of the book (and that's saying a lot: it's a book that fails in a lot of ways): her happy days with Andrea were meant to be such an alternate-lifestyle, but it's the least convincing part of this very unconvincing book.
       Pille has some fun describing the lives of the privileged young of Paris, but she doesn't have enough fun with it. Absurdly, she wants this to be a moral tale -- but then forgets to allow morality into it. It's a mess (and awkwardly presented on top of it), a pretty poor piece of work.

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Reviews: Hell - the film: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Lolita Pille was born in 1982.

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