This is my review of J’AI Lu: Le Passager De La Pluie (Folio Policier) by Japrisot.
Unusual in being written as a novel after the script of what became a celebrated prize-winning film, this contains verbatim in the style of a play the dialogue used on screen. The descriptions are intensely visual – evoking the rocky coastline of southern France, the experience of driving in the rain, with a growing sense of menace as the heroine Mellie Mau, a lonely child bride addicted to dressing in white, becomes uncomfortably aware of the presence of a sinister stranger dropped off in her small home town. She finds herself involved in a crime which she may be able to conceal from her possessive husband, who perhaps did not appear to be such a chauvinist in the 1960s when the story was written, but then another shrewd stranger appears on the scene, with an almost telepathic ability to work out what she has done. It is just a question of forcing her to admit it….
This short novel is a page turner, full of twists and high tension and working towards a neat and convincing ending. The book just escapes being corny. Some of the violence seems a bit gratuitous, and at times I found it hard to take the male characters' tendency to resort to brute force with a casualness which was perhaps more acceptable when the film was made. There is a little character development as we learn about the troubled childhood which has perhaps stunted Mellie's maturity and fed her capacity to lie, about rhe uneasy relationship with her mother and the reason's for Mellie's submission to an older and domineering husband. At the same time, we gain respect for her stubborn courage.
An easy read – even for a foreigner reading it in the original French – a lightweight story on the surface, there is more to this than first meets the eye.
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