Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index


to e-mail us:

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK



the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Stranger next Door

Amélie Nothomb

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

To purchase The Stranger next Door

Title: The Stranger next Door
Author: Amélie Nothomb
Genre: Novel
Written: 1994 (Eng. 1998)
Length: 192 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Stranger next Door - US
The Stranger next Door - UK
The Stranger next Door - Canada
Les Catilinaires - Canada
Les Catilinaires - France
Der Professor - Deutschland
Las catilinarias - España
  • Original title: Les Catilinaires
  • Working title of English translation: The Diatribe
  • Translated by Carol Volk

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B : a decent, creepy thriller, but not quite up to her usual standard

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Lire A 9/1995 Didier Sénécal
The NY Times Book Rev. A 15/2/1998 Janet Kaye
Tages-Anzeiger A- 9/3/1996 Daniel Rothenbühler

  From the Reviews:
  • "Amélie Nothomb transforme sa petite histoire inoffensive en farce macabre assez irrésistible. Il faudrait une volonté d'acier pour ne pas se délecter de ses descriptions répugnantes et de ses plaisanteries d'une rare noirceur." - Didier Sénécal, Lire

  • "Nothomb develops this improbable plot in a highly entertaining fashion." - Janet Kaye, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Das Ende ist zugleich grausam und befreiend. Nothomb überlässt es den Lesenden, es als Happy-End oder Katastrophe zu sehen, so wie sie auch die Figuren, Szenen und die (hervorragenden) Dialoge durchweg zwischen lebhaftem Witz und tödlichem Ernst schweben lässt." - Daniel Rothenbühler, Tages-Anzeiger

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.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       It is a sad commentary on the state of American publishing that a successful, accessible, charming, and certainly very marketable author such as Amélie Nothomb must wait for nearly a decade to get the first of her books published in an English translation. The precocious little literary superstar, whose work is available throughout Europe (and who has achieved both best-selling and cult status there) remains practically unknown here. So Holt is to be commended for finally bringing her to these shores. We wonder why, of the half dozen books she has written, they chose this one, but its better than nothing .....
       The Stranger next Door (not the world's greatest title, by the way, and bearing no resemblance to the original French one) is the unusual story of Emile and Juliette Hazel, an old couple very much in love and very happy with their relatively isolated lifestyle. Emile retires as a high school classics professor and the couple look forward to enjoying their old age together, living simply yet comfortably, happy just to have each other. Into this small idyll comes their neighbor, the unlikely doctor with the unlikely name Palamedes Bernardin.
       Palamedes Bernardin is staggeringly boring, an exaggerated literary figure who imposes himself on the Hazels. They are too polite to turn him out, and he keeps reappearing, becoming a fixture in their life. He also becomes the fixation of their life, as they try to figure out how to avoid him and return to their wished for life-style. The doctor is a failure of great proportions, clinging to the Hazels -- the ultimate neighbor from hell insofar as he constantly invades the Hazels' space.
       Added to the mix then is Palamedes unlikely heap of a wife, the cyst Bernadette, a horrifying yet marvelous creation as well. Nothomb's novel is in part surreal, both philosophic meditation and thriller. She has a lot of fun with this simple premise, torturing her characters with glee.
       It is a good story, but not for the squeamish, and even we found the characters too unpleasant to truly enjoy it. We do recommend it -- Nothomb is a writer one should be familiar with -- but readers should know that she has done better than this and should look forward to the appearance of her other work in English.

Please note and consider that this review is based on the original version of the novel and not the English translation.

- Return to top of the page -


The Stranger next Door: Reviews: Amelie Nothomb: Other books by Amélie Nothomb under review: Books about Amélie Nothomb under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature at the complete review

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Belgian author Amélie Nothomb was born in Kobe, Japan, August 13, 1967.

- Return to top of the page -

©1999-2024 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links