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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

(The Skin I Live In)

Thierry Jonquet

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

To purchase Mygale

Title: Mygale
Author: Thierry Jonquet
Genre: Novel
Written: 1984/95 (Eng. 2002)
Length: 129 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Mygale - US
Tarantula - UK
The Skin I Live In - UK (movie tie-in)
Tarantula - Canada
Mygale - Canada
Mygale - France
Die Haut, in der ich wohne - Deutschland
Tarantola - Italia
  • First published in 1984, revised and corrected edition (on which this translation is based) published in 1995
  • French title: Mygale
  • US title: Mygale
  • UK title: Tarantula
  • UK movie tie-in edition: The Skin I Live In
  • Translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith
  • Mygale was made into a film in 2011, La Piel que Habito (The Skin I Live In), directed by Pedro Almodóvar and starring Antonio Banderas

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Our Assessment:

B : far-fetched, to say the least, but enjoyably bizarre and creepy

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 26/11/2005 Maxim Jakubowski
NZZ . 26/3/2008 Thomas Laux

  From the Reviews:
  • "(T)his short novel embraces sexual horror with relish; it feels at times like being pulled on a leash through a Bosch painting with the Marquis de Sade leering from the wings." - Maxim Jakubowski, The Guardian

  • "(D)ie Dinge geraten gewaltig aus dem Ruder, alles mündet in einen frankensteinverdächtigen Showdown mit Geschlechtsumwandlung, Mord und sexuellem Delirium -- almodóvaresk eben. Jonquets Roman ist natürlich etwas für Liebhaber des Genres, für alle anderen sollte gelten: lieber nicht." - Thomas Laux, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

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:

       Mygale -- or Tarantula, as the British edition has it (a more familiar spider-name) -- is, appropriately enough, a spider web of a book, the different threads spun out until it all comes together in its very neat design. Jonquet serves up some extremely unlikely coincidences to get it to all fit together, but most of what he dishes up is so bizarre that one can almost overlook that. Especially in how he builds it up, Jonquet keeps the reader guessing just enough. And, in any case, it's a quick ride.
       Jonquet spins out several threads separately, jumping from one to the other until they finally all come together.
       There's the plastic surgeon Richard Lafargue, who keeps Eve under lock and key in his house, taking her out on occasion as his companion but also pimping her out to men for them to do with her what they please. He doses her with opium, but even beyond that she seems docile and resigned to her fate. Lafargue also doesn't seem to take much sexual pleasure in her; his thrill is in her abasement, her suffering "was his only comfort". And Lafargue also suffers from another tragedy: his daughter, barely out of her teens, is institutionalized, suffering from some terrible mental breakdown.
       Then there's the story of Vincent Moreau, captured by a madman and locked up in a cellar, with it only very slowly becoming clear what the captor has planned for his prisoner.
       Finally, there's Alex, a petty thug who finally managed the big score -- a bank robbery -- but now is desperately on the run, knowing that all of France is looking for him and with little idea of how he can make good his escape. And he nostalgically recalls his buddy, who disappeared four years earlier: "Vincent, he thought, would have known what to do in this kind of situation".
       Vincent's fate at the hands of the madman, Eve's identity, and Alex's plan all suggest themselves pretty early on, but Mygale still manages to be gripping in that one remains curious how Jonquet is going to pull it all together. Adding even more coincidences (and connexions) to the already obvious ones he manages to offer all the answers -- everything is tied together, very neatly -- and even if most of this is ... implausible, it's still creepy good fun (in the Hannibal Lecter-type entertainment sense).
       An odd mix of the stylish and the deranged, and, like a spider web, too thin to withstand the pressure of much scrutiny, Mygale is fine escapist literature, but little more.

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Mygale: Reviews: The Skin I Live In - the film: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Thierry Jonquet was born in 1954 and died in 2009.

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