Japrisot, Sebastien. “One Deadly Summer”, translated by Alan Sheridan, Gallic Books, 2018.
Hatred, Revenge and Lust
When she was just nine-years-old, Elle learned that she is the product of the gang raping of her mother; She later uses her sexual wiles to lure her husband, Fiorimond, into a deadly plot against the men whom she believes to be the rapists.
Set in the 1970s, this story of obsession and suspense pulls us in on the first page. We see the story via Elle and “Ping-Pong” and because of this we do not know immediately what that summer was all about. We start with the why of the plot instead of going right into the events. We read of how injury takes us to obsession and then to revenge. Early on we are aware of Elle’s promiscuity and we see that she uses sex to her advantage (she thinks). Sex has powerful consequences as we have seen throughout history— it can build an empire or cause one to fall. Elle understands its power and thusly uses it and she does so calculatingly whether it is coerced, casual or part of a marriage.
Japrisot gives us a portrait of working class life in a typical French village. It is as if we are actually living there, entering homes, working, tending to household duties and family matters, go to the disco on the weekend and so on. We get to know the villagers as things happen (not all of them are good) and we see that an unexpected event can take a person into a strange and different world, almost in a moment.
At first, all we know is that a mysterious young beauty causes quite a scene in a small French town one summer, driving the men wild and tricking one of them into marrying her. We learn that this is because of a long-ago crime in the same small town, and this young woman is now out for revenge. The reader knows that Elle is drawing the men to their doom. I must say that I had a problem with Elle—
she is an unlikeable heroine. She is selfish and cruel, so her influence over the other characters is unbelievable. I really did not care what happened to her. I really cannot say any more about the plot because to do so I would have to include spoilers. I can say that even without any feelings for Elle, this is a fascinating read that reminded me of the “sexy” French novels I would read on the sly when I was a college student. No one writes about sex like the French.