Adele by Leïla Slimani

Having read Lullaby first, I had high hopes for Adele. However, the latter left me disappointed. I still very much enjoyed Slimani’s writing style, but this novel’s plot and characters left much to be desired. The premise of the novel sounds promising enough - Adele is a respected journalist who lives in a flawless Parisian apartment with her surgeon husband and their young son. However, Adele harbours a dark secret. She is a sex addict who seduces almost all the men she meets. Her secret life becomes unsustainable when her husband is involved in an accident and Adele has to care for him.

First of all, Adele is a difficult character to sympathise with, much less like. Unlike the nanny in Lullaby, the reasons for Adele’s addiction are briefly touched upon and not clearly elaborated so we are never quite sure what motivates her actions. The nanny in Lullaby appears to be a monster at first, but is eventually humanised as her story and her past unfold. Compared to her, Adele comes across as shallow and utterly without scruples, sleeping with her female friend’s partner and wishing that her injured husband were dead. The ambivalence about her past and her motivations only serve to render Adele a flat, one dimensional character. Perhaps Slimani intended to shock the reader or for Adele to be a truly subversive character, one who sleeps with men for no good reason other than choosing to surrender to her dark impulses entirely. After a while, her liaisons become tedious and I no longer care if her secret is exposed. A must-read only if you are a fan. I’d still recommend Lullaby over this.


by Dawn Tan