Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mercure by Amélie Nothomb

Yay ! I just finished reading my first French novel. Well, actually it's Belgian but you know what I mean :) It's called "Mercure", written by Amélie Nothomb and published in 1998. What attracted me to it initially was nothing but it's pocket-book appearance. The novel is a pretty fast read and took me just a day and a half to read. It's quite suitable for anyone who is at the B1 level with a decent vocabulary. I was actually looking for some pulp fiction but judging by their covers the "romans" section of the Alliance Francaise de Bombay has only literary fiction.

I enjoyed "Mercure". It's a thriller narrated in easy, light prose. I think my own imagination lent a gothic atmosphere to it. I think the story is just perfect for a Hollywood thriller. It's 1923. Nurse Françoise a beautiful, competent and upright woman is summoned on a private island to take care of Hazel, an orphaned young girl living under the guardianship of a rich old man. On her arrival, Françoise is puzzled by the tight security and baggage-checks. Soon it's revealed that mirrors are banned on the island and the guards are ordered to confiscate even the smallest reflective surface. Over the course of her daily visits, Françoise becomes aware of the strange relationship between Hazel and her benefactor. Old man Loncours treats Hazel like his daughter except at night. Françoise soon gets into Nancy Drew mode and uncovers secrets that could change the course of Hazel's life.

There are only three major characters and most of the action takes place indoor. Although there are many scenes where two characters would just talk and talk, it never ever gets boring. In fact all the conversations are quite interesting. For some reason the author decided to write two climaxes, both of which seemed odd to me. The second one is weird as hell.

I am a big fan of dark thrillers and "Mercure" seems like the perfect source material for an atmospheric, period thriller. I couldn't help but imagine a smart tall brunette like Angelina Jolie playing Françoise. By amping up the supernatural elements and adding some scares this could be one hell of a movie ! Wow! I wish that gets made.