9780007100958 / 0007100957

Good Intentions





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About the book:

Good Intentions is French author Agnes Desarthes second novel to be translated into English following the critical success in the UK of Five Photos of My Wife. Like its predecessor it is a concise, elegant dissection of the anxieties of daily life, which opens benignly enough by introducing us to a young couple, Sonia and Julien, who have recently moved into a seemingly unexceptional block of flats in Paris. However, what begins as a wry ensemble piece about the various eccentric inhabitants of the apartment block mutates into something far more disturbing. Sonia befriends an old man, Monsieur Dupotier who, following the death of his wife, becomes increasingly dependent on Simone, the caretaker, and her sadistic brother, Simono. Initially Sonia is repulsed by the filth of Monsieur Dupotiers neglected apartment; however, as she learns of Simone and Simonos bullying of the old man she embarks on a bitter battle with the police and social services to secure more humane treatment for Monsieur Dupotier.

Hugely controversial in its native country, Good Intentions paints a bleak picture of a Paris that is divided by the seemingly insuperable fault lines of race, class and poverty. Sonia, a Jew, feels constantly threatened by the latent anti-Semitism that threatens to boil over in her arguments with Simono. And yet, as a middle-class professional, she too is guilty of displaying distaste for the habits of her poorer, less well-educated neighbours. The novel isnt intended to be an angry polemic about the state of the nation though; rather it is an examination of how one individual tries to respond to this cycle of ignorance and suspicion. Inevitably Desarthe asks more questions than she answers but she nevertheless succeeds in carving out a trenchant and often wickedly funny portrayal of the vicissitudes of urban living. --Jane Morris

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