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L'Affaireby Diane Johnson
Synopses & Reviews
Diane Johnson, two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and three-time finalist for the National Book Award, delivers an enchanting and wickedly funny novel about an American abroad and the delicate questions of love, death and money.
When Amy Hawkins, a young dot-com executive from California who has made her fortune at the top of NASDAQ, overhears a pair of elderly and thus much wiser socialites decry the new generation for their incompetence in all things worldly, she sets off for Europe to find culture, her roots, and maybe a cause to devote her considerable fortune to. Amy starts her quest at one of the finest small hotels in the French Alps-a hotel noted for skiing and its famous cooking lessons-in the town of Valmeri.
A few days into her trip, Amy is nearly swept away by an avalanche (started, some say, by low-American warplanes). Two of the hotel's guests, esteemed English publisher Adrian Venn and his much younger American wife, Kerry, were not as fortunate as Amy. Both lie comatose in a nearby hospital. Learning that French and English law dictate a very different division of money depending on where Adrian dies, Adrian's children-young, old, legitimate, and illegitimate-assemble in Valmeri to protect their interests should he not pull through.
Amy, already suspect as an American, finds that her nationality freezes the social climate as she steps in to assist the family. In her innocence, Amy sets in motion a series of events in France and England that spotlight ancient national differences, customs, and laws. Add one or two small affairs that may topple carefully balanced alliances, and soon it is as the French say, a situation.
Hailed as witty, delicious, nuanced and fresh by book critics across the country, Diane Johnson has composed her most amusing and insightful character to date in young Amy Hawkins. A contemporary masterpiece sure to entertain, L'Affaie is a perfectly drawn comedy of manners abroad.
"Diane Johnson has a lightness of touch that has nearly disappeared from literary fiction, comic or otherwise. What a pleasure to be hit with her fluffy, sparkling avalanche, instead of the usual ton of bricks from almost anybody else." Thomas Mallon, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic review)
"Diane Johnson treads — very consciously and cleverly — across the ancient and hallowed turf of the 'international novel.'" New York Times Book Review
"Johnson is more droll than Henry James, to whom she's been compared, and she's as witty as a modern-day Voltaire. Vraiment, L'Affaire, c'est irresistible!" Publishers Weekly
"Johnson...has a gift for smart gab, but it's never quite as smart as she thinks, and the turgid lack of credible people or any forward momentum is a fatal flaw....[S]adly, a terrible bore." Kirkus Reviews
"Johnson's novel is exactly the kind of intricate, bittersweet comedy of manners her many fans have come to expect." Booklist
"...a delicious goulash of a novel: she has turned cross cultural misalliances and misunderstandings into the stuff of comedy." The New York Times
A story of Americans abroad and the melange of Europeans they encounter, in affairs of both the heart and of business, L'Affaire firmly upholds the true comic-literary talent of a writer of whom the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "If one were to cross Jane Austen and Henry James, the result would be Diane Johnson."
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.
In Diane Johnson’s L’Affaire, Amy Hawkins, a smart, pretty Palo Alto girl who made herself a dot-com fortune, goes to France to get a sheen of sophistication and, perhaps, to have an affair that will ruffle her all-too-steady heart. Amy starts her quest in the French Alps in the town of Valméri, amid an assortment of aristocrats and ski enthusiasts.
When two of the hotel’s guests, esteemed English publisher Adrian Venn and his much younger American wife, Kerry, are swept away by an avalanche, Adrian’s children—young, old, legitimate, illegitimate—assemble in Valméri to protect their interests.
Amy, already suspect because she is American, steps in to assist, and unintentionally sets in motion a series of events that spotlight ancient national differences, customs, and laws. Filled with love, sex, death, and travel, L’Affaire is Diane Johnson at her very best in a comedy of contemporary manners played out between the sexes as they stumble over cultural barriers and slam into cultural stereotypes.
About the Author
Diane Johnson, a three-time National Book Award finalist (most recently in 1997 for Le Divorce), is the author of twelve previous books. She divides her time between San Francisco and Paris.
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