Reviews||

Jealousy by Catherine Millet

22nd Apr 2010

Jealousy The Other Life of Catherine M by Catherine Millet Cropped

Fast-forward several years, and Millet’s next book, Jealousy: The Other Life of Catherine M, has received similar mixed reviews. In it, Millet documents her discovery that her long-term partner, poet and novelist Jacques Henric, also had numerous other lovers. The resulting text is an uncomfortably dense, richly-textured tapestry documenting her systematic estrangement from Jacques and their previous daily routines.

By ruthlessly detailing her own emotional reactions, Jealousy becomes a commentary on the relationship between sex and sentimentality, societal stereotypes of adultery, romance and monogamy. She dissects the cultural and behavioural conventions associated with sexuality, and continuously returns to themes such as memory, disease, voyeurism, masturbation and the impact on identity of intimate relationships and secrecy within them.

As with with The Sexual Life…, Catherine’s writing style is analytical; she is acutely conscious of her emotional and physical responses to situations, and describes them with mechanical lucidity, even when the responses themselves are far from rational. She describes the anxiety, panic and insecurity provoked by her discovery of Jacques’ affairs (episodes she and Jacques collectively nickname ‘the crises’) in blank reportage, evoking a strange disconnection between the cold and clinical narrative tone and the accusations, paranoia and paralysis she recounts.

Although at times Jealousy smacks of tedious self-indulgence, overall it’s an engrossing (if occasionally irritating) insight into the mindset of one of France’s most intriguing female authors. Jealousy: The Other Life of Catherine M was published towards the end of 2009 by Serpent’s Tail. It’s £5.56, from Amazon.

Post by Jane Bradley

Comments

  • I enjoyed this astute review, especially as I was fortunate enough to meet Catherine Millet in Brighton when her first work was published. I was director of the Brighton Book Festival at the time and had invited her to appear, interviewed by the great Edmund White, her publisher Pete Ayrton acting as interpreter. (All this rather a lot of context for a very short story!) Catherine and I had lunch in the sunshine before her event and I found myself totally stymied about what to talk about. As she had revealed her most private feelings and actions in her book about her sex life any other topic seemed banal but that topic too – usually only discussed in most conversations once people know each other at least a bit – had been exhausted by her book. We only had a main course.

  • Jane Bradley says:

    Thanks for the anecdote, Peter, how was Edmund White? And what did you end up chatting about with Catherine? What is she like in real life?