Adèle appears to have the perfect life: She is a successful journalist in Paris who lives in a beautiful apartment with her surgeon husband and their young son. But underneath the surface, she is bored--and consumed by an insatiable need for sex.
Slimani observes [the book's turns] with a coolness that’s almost clinical, even as the feverish spark of obsession licks at the corner of nearly every page. Because Adèle’s appetites, of course, can’t really be sated — they’re as vast and shattering as this fierce, uncanny thunderbolt of a book.
The standard that readers who loved The Perfect Nanny will hold Adèle to—both the woman and the book—is too high ... Part of the disappointment is in realizing Slimani’s shtick. All she wants is for us to sit with this person for some time—and that’s great—but in Adèle, unlike The Perfect Nanny, this yields diminishing returns ... But then Adèle does have a twist coming. Late in the book—too late—Richard gains a perspective, a stake, before turning to the inevitable. For the reader with some fealty to Slimani’s way, it’s profoundly unsatisfying. But for that persnickety Goodreads reviewer, it’ll work: It delivers that pulpy quality one should never have expected from Slimani in the first place.
The opening is unfortunately a harbinger of what ails the rest of this novel. We are expected to believe that a person like Adèle — outwardly successful, with her marriage to a well-to-do surgeon husband, an ascendant career in journalism, adorable children — has an inward void that can only be slaked, temporarily, by random sexual encounters. This dichotomy is meant to be transgressive, all the more for the lack of explanation for Adèle’s extramarital desires. It’s not ... Adèle glides through the narrative on a numb-inducing wave ... Reading Adèle was like being in the middle of a blocking exercise in a play rehearsal. Move her here, move him there, see what happens, if anything happens at all.