Herve Le Tellier~France
Thomas Le Gall has not taken his eyes off Romain Vidal for a moment, though. This is the man who wakes every morning beside Louise Blum, the woman he is falling in love with, and whom he has just made love to for the first time. Romain Vidal is not his rival, because no one ever has a rival. Thomas had no urge to confront the image of “the husband.” He wanted to see the man Louise Blum had loved and still loved, and also, perhaps, wanted to put his own feelings to the test. Thomas feels the beginnings of sympathy for this great tall boy whose secret shyness he can see, whose fluid logical train of thought he admires, and whose friendship he knows with regret he can never have.
Herve Le Tellier’s Enough About Love is the quintessential French Novel. It takes love, the eros love, and shows us how it can enter into our lives suddenly, without invitation, and how it can leave without explanation. It’s a portrait of what we will allow love to give and to take away from us. It begs the question, “Is love something you can dismantle or does it age and fade like we do?” I can say that I enjoyed this novel for it’s style, perspective, humor and distillation of emotional moments, but I also felt that it was indifferent to the fate of characters and to love, lacking the depth I wanted it to have. Subjective, to be sure, but also a reaction. Le Tellier lures us in with his short, apt descriptions of the characters and their interactions, but skims the surface and never dives below which is why I felt a little cheated.
The chapters are short, succinct and seamless. Le Tellier focuses on two love affairs: one between Thomas and Louise and one between Yves and Anna. Thomas is Anna’s analyst, Louise is a lawyer, Yves is a writer and Anna is a psychiatrist. Anna and Louise are both married, both have children and both think they are happy. When Louise meets Thomas at a dinner party, there is an immediate spark which Thomas cannot ignore. He contacts Louise and an affair begins. Louise’s husband is also a writer who doesn’t seem to connect with her anymore. Anna, who falls for Yves, has no idea she is capable of loving someone other than her husband. Le Tellier limns effectively the energy of these instant connections and how they burrow into our emotional lives in glorious yet inconvenient ways. The way he views love is as an unstoppable force that we ultimately can’t control but can only limit how much we succumb to it. Although it’s close third person narration, the male characters seem to have more nuance, insight and introspection where the female characters are drawn with wider strokes and appear more practical. Not to say that the female characters have to be emotional and introspective, but there is a sense of Le Tellier’s comfort in his presence of the male characters. There are passages where Le Tellier appears as if he standing behind a transparent scrim like this passage that tell us Thomas lost his wife and child a long time ago:
There are some works so luminous that the fill us with shame for the meager life to which we are resigned, that they implore us to lead another, wiser, fuller life; works so powerful that they give us strength, and force us to new undertakings. A book can play this role. For Thomas, it is La vita nuova, in which Dante weeps for his Beatrice. A friend gave it to him shortly after Piette’s death. But Thomas does not believe that his Piette waits for him in a future life, he doubts that anywhere in the infinite plurality of Lewis’s worlds there is a peaceful universe where a happy Piette gave birth to their little boy.
There is definitely a mournful quality to this book that is very engaging and nostalgic. Le Tellier’s style is sparse but full of the right details as well as incredibly original details. In the end, we all decide what love is worth to us. It’s the journey to the decision which is painful. Not new territory, but in Le Tellier’s hands it is precious and ruminative and expressed through some very clever ways like a chapter where Yves reads a section of a his book abutted against the narrative of this novel. This could be irksome, but it comes off as refreshing.
This is quick read and an enjoyable read. But I wouldn’t call it a tremendously deep read. It does not have the need to because in effect love can make us poignant and shallow. I wanted to delve more into the fear of what leaving a relationship or giving up the chance at a great one brings to us. Not there the characters have no fear, but it feels glossed over. But if you are wanting a traditional and creative novel about the French idea of love,
Enough About Love is a read to turn to when you feel like love is the one thing you just don’t understand.
Enough About Love
By Herve Le Tellier
Translated by Adriana Hunter
Paperback, 240 pp.