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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Rose Royal

Nicolas Mathieu

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To purchase Rose Royal

Title: Rose Royal
Author: Nicolas Mathieu
Genre: Novel
Written: 2019 (Eng. 2022)
Length: 84 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Rose Royal - US
Rose Royal - UK
Rose Royal - Canada
Rose Royal - Canada (French)
Rose Royal - France
Rose Royal - Deutschland
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • French title: Rose Royal
  • Translated by Sam Taylor

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Our Assessment:

B : solid little modern-relationship novella

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Libération . 3/10/2019 Alexandra Schwartzbrod
NZZ . 27/7/2020 Paul Jandl
TLS . 10/6/2022 Agnès C. Poirier
Die Welt . 23/7/2020 Tilman Krause

  From the Reviews:
  • "Rose Royal, en 77 pages, raconte de façon implacable la tragédie des féminicides qui, l'an dernier, a entraîné la mort de 121 femmes en France et cette année déjà 113 aux premiers jours d'octobre." - Alexandra Schwartzbrod, Libération

  • "Dass es bis dahin eher gemächlich zugeht, hat damit zu tun, dass das Buch kein Krimi ist, sondern von eher gewöhnlichen menschlichen Delikten handelt. Von Täuschungen und Enttäuschungen. Von männlichem Chauvinismus. Und von den Aufregungen tödlicher Langeweile. (...) Kaum etwas in Rose Royal ist mehr als nur Behauptung, weil diese Liebesgeschichte niemals nur privat ist, sondern auf exemplarische Weise auch politisch sein muss. (...) Mathieu hat eine Platzpatrone von Roman geschrieben." - Paul Jandl, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "It is a tale of slow subjugation (.....) Mathieu explores the vicious circle into which Rose falls, in a country where a femicide takes place every three days. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, the trap gets tighter and each character's addiction to the other stronger" - Agnès C. Poirier, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Mit hinreißender Lakonie beschreibt der Autor, wie das vor sich geht. Und wieder kann man nicht umhin, seine gestanzte Formulierungskraft zu bewundern (.....) Die Angst wechselt mitnichten die Seite, und am Ende siegt nicht das (weibliche) Prinzip Kommunikation, sondern eben leider doch das (männliche) Prinzip Gewalt. Das ist alles messerscharf aus den Charakteren der Figuren entwickelt, ohne jene heute so beliebten Jeremiaden über „die“ Gesellschaft, „die“ Verhältnisse. Hier sind zwei Menschen ganz allein für ihr Unglück verantwortlich." - Tilman Krause, Die Welt

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:

       Rose Royal is a slim, three-part novella. The Royal is the regular after-work haunt of Rose. Nearing fifty, she still has a fine set of legs on her but is beginning to show her age. She was married -- young, at age twenty -- but she's on her own again: her two grown-up sons lead their own lives now, and she and her husband divorced "without major complications". She's been in relationships since, but nothing too serious or lasting.
       She's also had some bad experiences with men, too often seeing their aggressive side flare up:

It was always the same old story. You touched the nerve of his pride and his fist came down on you.
       The last man she had gone out with for a longer period, Thierry, had never actually hit her, but she sensed he was close to doing so at times. It led her to buy a gun, a .38 caliber revolver -- with her then practically itching for Thierry to yell at her again, certain then that: "The revolver would enable her to put a stop to this cycle".
       Oh, Rose, Rose .....
       The revolver, which she takes to carrying around with her -- all in rather blatant violation of French law, it would seem -- is actually put to use quite early on -- humanely, arguably. It is also the incident that brings Luc into her life.
       Luc is attracted to her and asks her out, and a close relationship quickly develops. It's not exactly a great romance, but they're comfortable together -- they have similar opinions on practically anything, and they both like to drink -- and so they become something of a couple. There's only one big problem: Luc is a dud in bed, unable to perform satisfactorily, night after night; as Rose explains to her closest friend: "We never go all the way to the end, if you see what I mean". Or, as she puts it more bluntly to Luc: "I'd like to be fucked properly for a start".
       She figures she'll end it, but can't entirely let go, and the third act jumps ahead more than two years. They're still together, Luc having just brought her to a fancy five-star hotel -- a Hotel Royal, as it happens, -- for a get-away. The allure of the five stars is still something Rose finds hard to resist -- but from the first there's that continuing sense of disappointment:
Rose looked for the promised five stars but couldn't find them on the large swinging doors or on the carpet runner that swept up the stairs, nor even on the staff uniform. Apparently the Hotel Royal in Evian didn't believe it necessary to flaunt this distinction because its clientele knew what to expect anyway.
       We learn that Rose has gone all-in with Luc -- given up her job, her apartment, pretty much her entire life. He made it easy -- she works for him, off the books, and earns more than she did at her old job, for example -- and she just let herself drift under his control. They don't really get along particularly well -- and he still can't finish the job in bed --, but Rose has accepted being part of this kind of couple.
       Realizing her situation hits her hard:
He made her feel that she was dangling by a thread. Such was her dependence, so deep had she fallen into servitude, that a single word would be enough to send her spinning into the void.
     For a long time she had not been able to put a name to this allusive violence. It was far from the obvious brutality of domestic abusers that you read about in the newspapers. There was no sobbing, there were no bruises. It was a violence of allusions, silences, absences.
       She'd already toyed with the idea of leaving him -- but he never took her seriously. Now she is more determined. But, as she had known long ago: men don't react well when you touch the nerve of their pride .....
       Rose Royal is a dark, quick, quite well-told tale. Luc treats Rose like something of an accessory -- he's a man, and wants to have a woman in his life, expecting and needing her only to play a specific, limited role -- and they're a pretty sorry couple. But at their age, in their situations, neither think they can expect much more.
       To this basic situation, Mathieu adds a few twists, and manages to keep the underlying tensions just ominous enough. And of course there's that gun that Rose carries around .....
       Rose Royal packs -- and ends with -- a good enough punch, making for a solid little domestic thriller, all too plausible in both its set-up and its resolution, all too familiar with its contemporary fragile-egoed male figure -- even one who is literally basically impotent -- who expects a woman to take on a traditional outdated role and can't deal with or accept any kind of perceived rejection by her.

- M.A.Orthofer, 7 July 2024

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Rose Royal: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       French author Nicolas Mathieu was born in 1978.

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© 2024 the complete review

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