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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Jean-Claude Izzo

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To purchase Solea

Title: Solea
Author: Jean-Claude Izzo
Genre: Novel
Written: 1998 (Eng. 2007)
Length: 205 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Solea - US
Solea - UK
Solea - Canada
in La trilogie Fabio Montale - Canada
Solea - India
in La trilogie Fabio Montale - France
in Die Marseille-Trilogie - Deutschland
in La trilogia di Fabio Montale - Italia
Soleá - España
  • French title: Solea
  • Translated by Howard Curtis
  • The third volume of Izzo's Marseilles Trilogy

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Our Assessment:

B : despairing but vivid

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
TLS . 29/6/2007 Hirsh Sawhney
The Village Voice . 26/6/2007 Carol Cooper

  From the Reviews:
  • "Solea engages with the relationship between crime and social inequality, but its core dilemmas are of a more existential nature. (...) Solea may not be the strongest novel in Jean Claude Izzo's trilogy, but it is still noir at its finest: compelling, sophisticated literature with a biting social edge." - Hirsh Sawhney, Times Literary Supplement

  • "He skillfully encapsulates all the distinctive beauty and wasted potential of Marseilles within a handful of memorable characters and locations that reappear in each volume of the trilogy. Climaxing the increasingly complex and hectic action of the first two books, Solea triangulates the fate of Marseilles among three oddly philosophic and iconic female characters" - Carol Cooper, The Village Voice

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:

       Former cop Fabio Montale is a melancholy guy, taking it easy in Marseilles but not really seeming to enjoy life much. Sure, he has some friends, but:

We only had to exchange glances to know we were all children of exiles. There was something reassuring about that. We had nothing to lose, because we'd already lost everything.
       But he doesn't realise how much more there is to lose. Sure, the one woman he loved, Lole, has left him, and he hasn't managed to fill that emptiness, but that's only one huge void ..... And he's actually optimistic when the story starts out, as a new woman has finally caught his eye. Sonia.
       Too bad a woman from his past -- who, in fact, had gotten between him and Lole -- turns to him for help just now. The woman is Babette, a journalist who has been researching the Mafia and has now prepared a bombshell-exposé. Unfortunately, the very well-connected Mafia doesn't want it to see the light of day, and are willing to go to any lengths to ensure that. Which means Babette is in big, big trouble, and on the run.
       The Mafia have begun a killing-rampage: any way they can get to her. And unfortunately Montale might be one of those ways. They tell him -- in no uncertain terms -- to find her, and they quickly make their point that they are very, very serious.
       The bodies pile up, and Montale doesn't know whom to trust or how to stay ahead of the Mafia (or the cops, who have also made the connection). And then there's that officer in charge, Hélène Pessayre, who is similarly alone like Montale .....
       Solea is a bloodbath of a book, with innocents killed right and left. Montale can do little more than despair, although he does try to fix the situation, one way or another. But the powers involved are crushing in their might -- and the Mafia so well-connected that no one is above suspicion.
       Montale doesn't see much hope either:
     And now death was hovering. As close to me as it was possible to be. And its smell was ever-present. The only perfume left to keep me company at night. The smell of death.
       When she asked about Montale his former boss described him to Pessayre as over-sensitive -- "You're an incurable romantic, Montale". But the world he inhabits has little room for such sentiment -- and takes advantage of this weakness of his. So Solea is ultra-bleak noir -- tempered only by that romantic streak. But it's clear from early on that there can be little hope for anything approaching a happy ending .....
       It's quick, ruthless, bloody. Izzo doesn't make it easy for the reader to root for the good guy: goodness doesn't stand much of a chance here. There are attempts at normality -- striking up relationships, keeping up friendships -- but greater powers leave little chance for them. Glimmers of hope, maybe -- but they ultimately seem little more than the dying embers of a stomped-out fire.
       It makes for a dark and even depressing read, but Izzo has a decent writing-flair that keeps it from being just an ugly tale.

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Solea: Reviews: Jean-Claude Izzo: Other books by Jean-Claude Izzo under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Jean-Claude Izzo was a popular French author. He was born in 1945 and died in 2000.

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