Adèle by Leila Slimani

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Leila Slimani’s “Lullaby” was the best selling book in France in 2016 before becoming an international success. “Adèle” came out in France before “Lullaby”, but this is its first outing in English, in a sharp and nuanced translation from Sam Taylor. It is a short, disturbing novel, written in the present tense and set in a bleak and amoral Paris.

Like Emma Bovary, Adèle is married to a doctor. She also echoes the nihilism of Flaubert’s heroine. Adèle is a successful journalist, but thoroughly bored by her rather proper, borderline-prudish husband Richard. She feels excluded – almost redundant – because of her husband’s fierce love for their child. She is also obsessed by transgressive sex – with her boss, her best friend’s boyfriend, and a pair of male prostitutes.

 

China Dream by Ma Jian

Ma Jian’s novels have been banned in his native China for 30 years and he has been hailed as ‘China’s Solzhenitsyn’. His latest book, China Dream, also contains some of the zip and vigour found in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian visions. This must be one of the liveliest novels about brainwashing ever written.

Ma Daode, the protagonist, is the director of the China Dream Bureau. Chillingly, such a body exists and was tasked with promoting Xi Jinping’s ‘China Dream of National Rejuvenation’ shortly after he came to power in 2012.