The One with the Writer as an Evil Double

Delphine de Vigan, D’Après Une Histoire Vraie (French 2015; English: Based on a True Story, 2017)

This is so bad of me not to review one of my favorite books of this year, isn’t it? I mean, I would gladly buy a pile of this book and put it in the hands of my best friends, if I could, but write a blog post about it? Nah, too hard, let me just drop it for 2 months and see if I can still remember it.

Most books, after two months, are vague souvenirs gathering cobwebs in a corner of my very busy mind, when they are not completely forgotten (that’s why I started this blog in the first place, remember?). Normally my enthusiasm withers after a while, but in that case… it’s just as fresh as the first day. I would happily start the book over again, and again, just to marvel at it and see if I can spot how de Vigan did it.

The story in one sentence: Delphine is a bestselling writer who is on the verge of burnout after her last success and finds herself unable to write. She meets a new friend, L., whose friendship is intense and makes herself indispensable in Delphine’s life. Who is L.? Is this friendship helpful or toxic? Does L. even exist? I won’t develop further, but this story is also only the basis, on which so many extra levels can be built.

It’s a reflexion on literature, on the creative life, on self-doubt and finding one’s voice as a woman and as a writer. It’s also a first-person narrative with a narrator who may or may not be Delphine de Vigan, who had a huge bestseller and had to answer the perilous question of “what to write next”. It’s also an interrogation about novels who are based on a true story, and how much truth there is in novels, or in autobiographies, or in what French authors call “autofiction”.

Some reviewers have called it a “perverse thriller”, others simply a “great mindf…”. Both are true in my opinion, but you’ll want to have your own opinion.

3 thoughts on “The One with the Writer as an Evil Double

  1. Pingback: Happy New Year & Happy Books! | Smithereens

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