In Yasmina Reza’s Novel, a Dinner Party Descends Into Chaos — and Then Tragedy

Erica Wagner in the New York Times:

It could all go wrong in an instant. In Yasmina Reza’s unsettling new novel, Elisabeth, the narrator, looks back on an evening in a Paris suburb that began in the most ordinary way — a casual evening party for family, friends and neighbors — and ended in catastrophe. The nature of the disaster unfolds across a brisk 200 pages, but it is foreshadowed from the very beginning, when Elisabeth observes her neighbor, Jean-Lino, rigid in an uncomfortable chair, surrounded by the detritus of the festivities, “all the leavings of the party arranged in an optimistic moment. Who can determine the starting point of events?”

On the surface, Elisabeth leads a placid, unexceptional life. She works as a patent engineer at the Pasteur Institute in the city; what she actually does all day, however, remains a mystery. She is married to Pierre, a math professor. “I’m happy with my husband,” she says, but then undercuts that claim: “He loves me even when I look bad, which is not at all reassuring.” At 62, she worries about getting older; she buys anti-aging products recommended by Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett, though she disapproves of herself for doing so. She has what appears to be a casual friendship with Jean-Lino; she doesn’t much like his wife, Lydie.

More here.