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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Philippe Djian

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To purchase Consequences

Title: Consequences
Author: Philippe Djian
Genre: Novel
Written: 2010 (Eng. 2013)
Length: 195 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Consequences - US
Consequences - UK
Consequences - Canada
Incidences - Canada
Consequences - India
Incidences - France
Die Rastlosen - Deutschland
Incidenze - Italia
  • French title: Incidences
  • Translated by Bruce Benderson

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Our Assessment:

B : stylish -- but ultimately does too little with too much

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
L'Express A 25/2/2010 François Busnel
FAZ . 9/11/2012 Sandra Kegel
Publishers Weekly . 29/7/2013 .
Télérama A 13/2/2010 Nathalie Crom

  From the Reviews:
  • "Tout y est: le ton, la langue, l'histoire, le suspense ... (...) (U)n campus novel tenu de main de maître, ponctué de réflexions décapantes sur l'état de la littérature actuelle et au final ..." - François Busnel, L'Express

  • "Selbst wenn es in den Rastlosen gelegentlich spannend und auch burlesk zugeht, zeigt sich die Welt darin als ein abgründiger und verschatteter Ort. Präzise obduziert Djian die Psyche seiner Figuren, die oft sogar sympathisch und guten Willens sind, dann aber kläglich an ihren Ansprüchen und Gefühlsgemengelagen zerbrechen. Bei Djian ist es ja immer die Sprache, dieser trockene, seltsam somnambule und manchmal grell knisternde Ton, der den Leser mit sich zieht." - Sandra Kegel, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Most readers should have no problem accepting the implausible premise of this wonderfully trashy stand-alone from Djian" - Publishers Weekly

  • "Un grand roman tragique et spéculatif, ironique et désespéré, qui pointe du doigt les blessures de l'enfance, l'incapacité d'en guérir, l'impuissance absolue et définitive de l'amour." - Nathalie Crom, Télérama

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Ah, the good old bring-the-girl-home-to-sleep-with-her-and-then-wake-up-to-find-her-dead-beside-you premise -- always a fun way to start a novel. Sure, it's been done before -- but it's still good enough to grab the reader's attention. The main character in Consequences is Marc, who at one time dreamed of becoming a writer but, when he realized he didn't have what it takes, became a writing teacher instead -- a decent gig at the local university. Among the fringe benefits: easy access to the attractive young student bodies -- a surprising number of whom are apparently eager to sleep with the old stud; yes, even at fifty-three he can still reel them in.
       The book opens with him having reeled in Barbara, thirty years his junior. He doesn't exactly remember what happened that night -- just that he: "was sure of one thing -- they'd done it. They had". But there's no getting around the fact that when he wakes up in the morning she's beside him, stone cold dead. Well: "At least there was no blood."
       Marc knows his weakness for young flesh is frowned upon -- in fact, a firing offense -- so he's very careful. Everyone knows about his predilections, but he manages to be discreet enough that he's never caught anywhere near in the act. Indeed, he knows he took all the usual precautions, and so no one saw him with Barbara, and no one knows she spent the night. So maybe it's easier just to dispose of the body .....

getting rid of her body seemed the most realistic thing to do. Who wanted to get mixed up with the police in this country ? Who still believed being innocent meant you'd be left in peace ?
       (Of course, even if he didn't kill her -- and there's not much reflection on what exactly happened to the poor girl, all the while leaving open that possibility -- he's not exactly innocent, and any investigation would surely lead to him losing his job.)
       Marc disposes of the body, in a pit he had discovered long ago with his sister, when he had almost slid into it but was pulled to safety by her. One might expect Consequences to then continue as a thriller that plays with Marc evermore desperately trying to keep his secret, while the police, the girl's family, and the school administration sniff closer and closer to the truth. But Djian has other games in mind.
       Dumping Barbara's body turns out to be remarkably inconsequential. People are surprised that the girl has vanished, and since she was one of Marc's students they have questions for him, but it doesn't really look like anyone is trying too hard to really figure out what happened here.
       Nevertheless, Marc does have some things to deal with. There's Barbara's stepmother, Myriam, -- who barely knew the girl, having just recently married Barbara's father, who is conveniently off fighting in Afghanistan -- an older woman that Marc is surprised to find himself drawn to. There's his talentless student Annie Eggbaum, who wants his attention and whose Mafiosi-family has the money and the muscle to see to it that she gets what she wants. And there's Marc's sister, Marianne, who also works at the university; the siblings still live together -- and, as becomes clear, have both not completely gotten over some traumas from their youth.
       In addition, there's Richard Oslo, Marc's boss as head of the literature department, a mediocrity who has his eyes on Marianne and leverages Marc's missteps into getting closer to her.
       Things certainly don't progress too predictably. People conveniently go missing -- Barbara's dad in Afghanistan, for one -- and Marc does wind up having to dispose of another body in the pit (in what seems an almost entirely gratuitous twist). It's hard to believe the local police is as incompetent and disinterested as it is presented as here, but for the most part Marc faces more danger from other parties -- including Annie's father, who apparently doesn't like to see his little girl disappointed.
       Consequences is agreeably dark, and Djian's atmosphere of foggy uncertainty works well through much of the book: from the hinted-at but obviously deep childhood traumas to Marc's evasive responses to nearly everyone he comes in contact with (he has a lot to hide, but of course he also makes his life more complicated with his half- and un-truths). There's an odd flow to the action, a stutter-stepping that keeps the story from really grabbing hold, but there's enough interesting (or simply weird) action to make for decent narrative tension right down to the end.
       Among the weird elements Djian plays with is the unsubtle symbolism of the (death-)pit -- nailed in all its suggestive glory by the French cover for the book:

Incidences - Djian

       Yes, Marc not only disposes of bodies in it, but he repeatedly ventures in -- and:
He loved being in this place. Now he had more proof of it. Every time he climbed down, he felt strangely protected; every time he found himself surrounded by that wall of rock, he could breathe, succeed in relaxing entirely, clear everything from his mind.
       And, yes, they discovered it as children, when he was at its precipice and his sister saved him from tumbling all the way in .....
       There's a lot going on in this book -- much that is un- and under-stated, too -- and it works a little too hard at profundity. Still, Djian piles on enough that is creepily good that, even if it doesn't exactly hold together, it makes for an agreeably unsettling read. And, by not playing by many of the usual thriller rules, Djian at least keeps readers on their toes; this is an often unpredictable story, not so much in having unusual twists as in jumping to entirely unexpected places.
       A bit of a muddle, but not without appeal.

- M.A.Orthofer, 24 November 2013

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Consequences: Reviews: Philippe Djian: Other books by Philippe Djian under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       Bestselling French author Philippe Djian was born in 1949.

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© 2013-2021 the complete review

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