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Le Divorceby Diane Johnson
National Book Award Finalist
Synopses & Reviews
Imagine the heroine of Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady sporting a stylish haircut, miniskirt, and sunglasses, and you have Isabel Walker, the irresistible heroine of Diane Johnson's incandescent novel.
Le Divorce follows this smart, sexy American abroad as she arrives in Paris to visit her stepsister Roxy, a poet whose marriage into an aristocratic French family has assured her of a coveted place in Parisian society. But all is not as it should be in the Persand household: Roxy's husband has just left her for the Czechoslovakian wife of an American lawyer. Could "le divorce" be far behind?
Here is the bestselling novel hailed by critics and readers alike — a delightful comedy of manners and morals, money, marriage, and murder, as wickedly funny as it is deeply insightful. As lingering as a French kiss, Le Divorce is Diane Johnson at her most sublime.
"[A] delightfully urbane social tragicomedy....Johnson's control of her material is impeccable. The world of American expatriates is fertile territory for her ironic wit, which is both subtle and sharp. Everything here delights the reader..." Publishers Weekly
"An excellently observed social and moral comedy....Diane Johnson treads — very consciously and cleverly — across the ancient and hallowed turf of the 'international novel'...a fresh burst of wonder." The New York Times Book Review
"A modern collision of French and American mores begins in near farce but ends in tragedy in Johnson's bright, unsparing novel....A shrewd, carefully detailed portrait of the ways in which Americans and the French continue to romanticize, denigrate, and misapprehend each other, contained in a well-paced, believably dramatic narrative." Kirkus Reviews
"It's hard to sympathize with any of the heartless characters profiled in this complex morality tale, in which everyone is, to some degree, corrupt. Nonetheless, Johnson seems to be having a great deal of nasty fun satirizing both American and French cultures....Cold and clever." Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist
"Le Divorce is thick with frank observation...of the kind that illuminates all of [Johnson's] work, and it lifts the novel high above those of most other mid-career American writers....She's a treat to read....Le Divorce is a banquet marred only by its final course — a hasty and overblown ending that feels as if it belongs to an entirely different book. No matter. We're too busy digesting what's come before to be bothered by a final jolt of strangely spun sugar." Dwight Garner, Salon.com
"A thoroughly modern comedy of Americans in Paris....Alluring...deftly composed." Boston Sunday Globe
"Delightful....A tasty feast Ms. Johnson surely had fun cooking up. She knows Paris from gutter to rooftop; she knows the natives as well as she knows the cozy community of expat Americans....[A] highly entertaining culture clash." New York Observer
"Social comedy at its best." Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Witty and compelling." The New Yorker
"Diverting....Diane Johnson [has a] deft comic touch." The Wall Street Journal
"An entertaining mix of circumstance....Diane Johnson is a smart and skillful novelist." The Washington Post
and#147;[A] vivid . . . quest for roots. . . . Splendid.and#8221;
and#151;The New York Times Book Review
Growing up in the small river town of Moline, Illinois, Diane Johnson always dreamed of venturing off to see the worldand#151;and did. Now having traveled widely and lived part-time in Paris for many years, she is stung when a French friend teases her about Americansand#8217; indifference to history. and#160;Could it be true? The jand#8217;accuse haunts Diane and inspires her to dig into her familyand#8217;s past, working back from the Friday night football of her youth to the adventures illuminated in the letters and memoirs of her stalwart pioneer ancestorsand#151;beginning with a lonely young soldier who came to America from France in 1711.
As enchanting as her bestselling novels, Flyover Lives is a moving examination of identity and the and#147;wispy but materialand#8221; family ghosts who shape us. As Johnson pays tribute to her deep Midwestern roots, she captures the perpetual tug-of-war between the magnetic pull of home and our lust for escape and self-invention.
From the New York Times bestselling author of Le Divorce, a dazzling meditation on the mysteries of the and#147;wispy but materialand#8221; family ghosts who shape us
Growing up in the small river town of Moline, Illinois, Diane Johnson always dreamed of floating down the Mississippi and off to see the world. Years later, at home in France, a French friend teases her: and#147;Indifference to historyand#151;thatand#8217;s why you Americans seem so naand#239;ve and donand#8217;t really know where youand#8217;re from.and#8221;
The jand#8217;accuse stayed with Johnson. Were Americans indifferent to history? Her own family seemed always to have been in the Midwest. Surely they had got there from somewhere? In digging around, she discovers letters and memoirs written by generations of stalwart pioneer ancestors that testify to more complex times than the derisive nickname and#147;The Flyoverand#8221; gives the region credit for.
With the acuity and sympathy that her novels are known for, she captures the magnetic pull of home against our lust for escape and self-invention. This spellbinding memoir will appeal to fans of Bill Bryson, Patricia Hampl, and Annie Dillard.
About the Author
Diane Johnson is the author of twelve books and is a two-time finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize (Persian Nights for fiction; Terrorists and Novelists for nonfiction) and the National Book Award (Lying Low for fiction; Lesser Lives for biography). She divides her time between San Francisco and Paris.
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