Friday, February 15, 2008

book review - The Heart-Keeper

The more you think about this short book from Francoise Sagan the more you feel it has to be categorised as a black comedy.

The reason is that although it is short on humour the idea that someone could be spending their life under the same roof as a cool-hearted serial killer is a quirky one. Then add to that the power that is put in Dorothy’s hands knowing that anyone she dislikes will be killed by Lewis and it does start to set up a story that could have gone in another direction.

What keeps this story of a 45 year-old kind-hearted script writer who takes in a drugged out early twenties man is the message it is putting out about Hollywood and the hollowness of tinsel town.

Success seems to bring misery, jealously, spiritual emptiness and a drink and drugs problem. Large houses, luxury cars and glamorous friends are all arranged and approved by the contract made with the studio. Real people and real lives don’t really have a place in this artificial world.

Amongst all of this sits Dorothy who is considering starting a relationship with Paul. She has been married before but is a confident and attractive woman who likes her independence. Part of that independence is taking the decision to take home a young man that her and Paul knock down one evening. Dorothy offers Lewis her spare room and after a while a mainly silent but powerful relationship develops. It is neither sexual or parental but based around something more idealistic.

Lewis bumps off Dorothy’s alcoholic ex-husband, the dead man’s second wife and a very aggressive studio boss before Dorothy discovers his secret. Once she knows she is filled with terror and eventually to escape she marries Paul and flees on honeymoon to the continent. In the meantime Lewis has been nominated for an Oscar and has all the trimmings of success.

But when Dorothy returns and is given the tour of Lewis’s home she leaves only to find the young star whimpering at the car window begging to be taken back to her home. Paul seems to understand that they will never be rid of Lewis but with Dorothy as his wife he appears to be prepared to allow the threesome to exist under the same roof.

Quiet what Dorothy - who is the heart-keeper of not just Lewis but Paul – will do is left to your imagination because at that point the book ends.

What is similar to something like Bonjour Tristesse is the sense of a love triangle, fast cars that lose their brakes and crash with fatal consequences and the younger of the three main characters being the most emotionally intense.

An odd book that you certainly won’t forget.

Version read – penguin paperback

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