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.
Although the misery is universal, this story is uniquely, and often amusingly, French ... The book would be a lot less fun if Adèle were vaping and knocking back Munchkins like a red-blooded American adulteress ... If the central idea of the book is a fascinating one, the prose is not always impeccable. Dialogue can be flat. Clichés are abundant ... Still, I liked this earlier novel much more than [Slimani's other novel] The Perfect Nanny, which doesn’t have an everyday iconoclast like Adèle...
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.