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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Rendezvous

Justine Lévy

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To purchase The Rendezvous

Title: The Rendezvous
Author: Justine Lévy
Genre: Novel
Written: 1995 (Eng. 1997)
Length: 142 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Rendezvous - US
The Rendezvous - UK
The Rendezvous - Canada
Le rendez-vous - Canada
Le rendez-vous - France
Rendezvous mit Alice - Deutschland
  • French title: Le rendez-vous
  • Translated by Lydia Davis

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Our Assessment:

B : disturbing, but quite well done

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 28/9/1997 Barbara Fisher
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction A Spring/1998 Susan Ireland
Salon F 11/12/1997 Charles Taylor

  From the Reviews:
  • "This slender book (...) provides a devastating description of the fierce and firm grip of a young woman's love, a reminder that while it is painful to hope and be disappointed, it is more painful still to give up hoping." - Barbara Fisher, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Levyĺs wonderful first novel paints a poignant yet funny picture of strained mother-daughter relations. (...) Readers interested in the subtle portrayal of complex family relationships will not be disappointed by this irresistible novel." - Susan Ireland, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "Reading The Rendezvous, I couldn't decide what was sillier: that an utterly selfish and irresponsible woman who never misses a chance to fail her daughter was being presented, as the book's blurbs would have you believe, as some sort of "acknowledgment that motherhood itself is an impossibly idealized state" (Josephine Hart), or that a young woman, after a lifetime of such treatment, wouldn't cut her losses and stop making herself miserable (.....) Since I haven't yet said anything about Levy's literary style, let me just note that it veers from what could be a parody of jet-set potboilers (...) to New Agey forgiveness-and-healing-speak" - Charles Taylor, Salon

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 Rendezvous describes not the actual meeting, but the wait. Alice has summoned her eighteen year old daughter, Louise, to a café. Louise is punctual, arriving at the Escritoire at eleven -- and there she waits ... and waits and waits. The Rendezvous is a very short novella, but it's still quite an accomplishment that such a drawn-out premise doesn't become too boring; of course, it does move along fairly quickly: fourteen pages in and Mama is already two hours late.
       The Rendezvous is a book about expectation, with Louise's narrative moving back and forth between present (waiting and waiting, mainly in the café) and past (with all the times her mother has disappointed her before), hope (maybe this time ...) and reality (you've got to be kidding ...) Theirs is obviously a complicated relationship, with Alice about as unfit a mother as one can imagine. She and Louise's father, a conductor who is frequently away from home for extended periods of time, divorced when Louise was very young. Louise lived with Alice for some of the time since, but for the most part that didn't work out too well. An incredibly (indeed: awfully) needy self-absorbed former model, Alice has enough trouble keeping her own life in any sort of order, much less taking care of a child.
       Louise's account is one long horror story, not of outright abuse or even lack of love, but of careless neglect and an incapacity for understanding the emotional needs of a child. Yes, Alice isn't thrilled when she discovers her lover (a woman, that time around) has been using the barely school-age child as a drug-runner, but her outrage doesn't really go very far. It's always Alice's needs that come first -- and when she needs a daughter to love, she's just as willing to latch onto a temporary step-daughter as Louise, even when Louise is right there. And when she needs to be rid of the child for a few hours, she'll take the first opportunity -- pay some ten year old girl they run into in a park to look after the not even five year old Louise for a couple of hours, for example.
       The more dependable (and more convincingly absent -- he's got a job to do) father isn't much of a presence, though Louise lives with him most of the time. He gets off fairly scot-free in this story, despite the fact that he seems to intervene only in the most egregious situations. (He also doesn't appear to be the most domesticated fellow, with a stable home life a distinctly low priority for him as he continues to move from woman to woman.)
       That Louise isn't more screwed up than she is is a wonder, and Lévy nicely captures the well-behaved girl who still aims to please. The situation she finds herself in is a bizarre and almost unbelievable one -- surely no one would wait more than, say, four or five hours ? -- though Lévy does offer a sign of life from Alice that makes Louise's lingering yet longer slightly more plausible. The mother-daughter bond here is a complicated one -- all fundamental tie, with no rational basis whatsoever (if she were looking at the situation rationally Louise would have ditched the bitch years ago, refusing to having anything to do with her). It's well captured, if frustrating: Alice is one of those individuals who do not function in society. She lives only for herself, oblivious to the damage she causes to those she touches. Louise's curse is that Alice is her mother, and she still yearns for motherly love and approval from that one person completely incapable of providing it.
       In The Rendezvous Lévy presents this awful story well, capturing Louise's neediness and desperation -- and painting a frightening portrait of adults who have a child but haven't the foggiest idea what to do with it. The jacket-copy states that the book: "blurs the boundaries between memoir and fiction", suggesting these parents (and this girl) actually exist, which makes the whole reading experience even more distasteful.
       On some level it's all perversely fascinating, and it is very readable -- fast, filled with remarkable horror stories, and with the suspense of will she or won't she (come, that is) -- but it's so disturbing that it's a very questionable pleasure.

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The Rendezvous: Reviews: Other books by Justine Lévy under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       French author Justine Lévy is an editor at Editions Stock.

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