(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The book opens with a conversation in the blue room between Tony Falcone and Andree Despierre, who have just made love. Andree asks Tony if he loves her: “Could you spend the rest of your life with me?” Tony answers Andree lazily, mechanically, “Of course”; then he sees Nicholas, Andree’s husband, crossing the square toward the hotel. Terrified of discovery, Tony escapes through a skylight, leaving his mistress to pacify her husband. The reader quickly discovers that this scene, from which the plot springs, is not taking place in the present; Tony is re-creating the memory in response to interrogation. Flashbacks from his past are interspersed with the comments and questions of his interrogators. On that particular August 2, Tony returned to his home in Saint Justin-du-Loup and arranged to take his wife, Gisele, and his six-year-old daughter, Marianne, to the seaside for a three-week holiday.

In the next section of the book, Judge Diem, who also has a wife and a baby—but who cannot understand Tony, though they are much of an age—gets him to re-create the events prior to August 2. Tony and his brother, Vincente Falcone, the owner of the Hotel des Voyageurs, are sons of an immigrant Italian bricklayer. They went to school with Nicholas Despierre (then a fat, pasty, epileptic child, the only son of the richest family in the village) and Andree Formier, “the great, tall girl from the Chateau.” Andree’s father, the doctor, had died heroically in a concentration camp; the Chateau was dilapidated and Andree and her mother were poor and hungry. By the time that Tony returns to the area with his wife to set up a business in the village, Andree has married Nicholas and successfully banished her mother-in-law, Madame Despierre, from the shop to her bungalow at the bottom of the garden. The liaison with Tony begins when he stops to help start the Despierres’ Citroen, which has had a flat tire on the way to Triant. Andree seduces him—not a...

(The entire section is 804 words.)