Book Reviews / Books

Le Divorce Book Review

09.29.21
Le Divorce Book Review

One of the greatest joys of interviewing authors on my podcast is adding to the never-ending pile of books I want to read. And of all the authors I’ve interviewed, Joanna Rakoff has to remain one of my favourites. Author of My Salinger Year, I loved the sound of each and every book she chose for her desert island picks, and have since gone on to buy each of the books I didn’t already own. Of the eight books Rakoff chose, Le Divorce by Diane Johnson was perhaps the one I was most interested in reading; I’ve had a long-standing love affair with France since I was a young girl, and – having always dreamed one day of living in the French capital – any book set in Paris has instant appeal. And so as soon as it arrived at my local bookshop in Bondi, I cleared my reading schedule and dove right in.

Le Divorce Book Review

As a sucker for any and every book set in Paris, I knew I would love Le Divorce as soon as I started it. A novel that brilliantly blends satire with poignance, Le Divorce follows American step-sisters Roxeanne and Isabel Walker as they find themselves adrift in Paris during the divorce of the former from her estranged French husband, Charles-Henri, who has himself fallen in love with a Yugoslavian woman. And while Isabel finds herself enchanted by the Parisian way of life, seduced by the wealth of gourmet food on offer and beguiled by a charming older man, Roxeanne’s marriage disintegrates into arguments over money and a family painting that Roxeanne brought to Paris as a wedding gift to her husband, and is now believed to be a genuine De La Tour and of considerable value. Much like the glittering backdrop of Paris, the painting soon becomes something of a focal character in this comedy of manners.

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A novel that navigates the step-sister’s shifting and changing relationship with Roxeanne’s lively and sophisticated family of French in-laws; the Persands are a perfect portrayal of bourgeois perfection; they wear the right – immaculate – clothes, they eat the most decadent cheeses, quaff the most expensive wines; and discuss the right opinion, all of which mask a cold and clannish condescension towards the American step-sisters.

A book that features all the right ingredients for a riveting read – art, divorce, class, marriage, seduction and murder – Le Divorce is the perfect Parisian novel.

Le Divorce Summary

This delightful comedy of manners and morals, money, marriage, and murder follows smart, sexy, and impeccably dressed American Isabel Walker as she lands in Paris to visit her stepsister Roxy, a poet whose marriage to an aristocratic French painter has assured her a coveted place in Parisian society…until her husband leaves her for the wife of an American lawyer.  Could “le divorce” be far behind?  Can irrepressible Isabel keep her perspective (and her love life) intact as cultures and human passions collide?  Described as ‘Social comedy at its best’ by the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Le Divorce is Diane Johnson at her most scintillating and sublime.

Buy Le Divorce from Bookshop.org, Book Depository or Waterstones.

Further reading

These Le Divorce book club questions are well worth checking out

Diane Johnson author bio

Diane Johnson is an American born novelist and essayist whose satirical novels often contain American heroines living abroad in contemporary France.

Born in Moline, Illinois, Johnson’s recent books include L’Affaire (2004), Le Mariage (2000), and Le Divorce (1997) for which she was a National Book Award finalist and the winner of the California Book Awards gold medal for fiction.

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More Diane Johnson books

Diane Johnson is also the author of Le Mariage, L’Affaire and Flyover Lines.

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