Adele (Slimani)

Leila Slimani, 2019
Penguin Publishing
240 pp.

From the bestselling author of The Perfect Nanny—one of the 10 Best Books of the Year of The New York Times Book Review—her prizewinning novel about a sex-addicted woman in Paris

She wants only one thing: to be wanted.

Adele appears to have the perfect life: She is a successful journalist in Paris who lives in a beautiful apartment with her surgeon husband and their young son.

But underneath the surface, she is bored—and consumed by an insatiable need for sex.

Driven less by pleasure than compulsion, Adele organizes her day around her extramarital affairs, arriving late to work and lying to her husband about where she's been, until she becomes ensnared in a trap of her own making.

Suspenseful, erotic, and electrically charged, Adele is a captivating exploration of addiction, sexuality, and one woman's quest to feel alive. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Rabat, Morocco
Education—Ecole superieure de commerce de Paris-Europe
Awards—Prix Goncourt (France); La Mamounia (Moroccan)
Currently—lives in Paris, France

Leïla Slimani is a Franco-Moroccan writer and journalist, who was awarded the 2016 Prix Goncourt for her novel Chanson douce. The novel was published in 2018 in the U.S. as The Perfect Nanny.

Life and work
Slimani was born in Rabat, Morocco, and left at the age of 17 for Paris to study political science and media studies at the Sciences Po and Ecole superieure de commerce de Paris-Europe (ESCP). After her graduation she began to work as a journalist for the magazine Jeune Afrique.

Slimani's first novel, Dans le jardin de l’ogre ("In the Garden of the Ogre"), published in 2014, won the Moroccan La Mamounia literary award. Two years later, Chanson douce was released, becoming a bestseller even before it was awarded the Prix Goncourt. That novel made Slimina the most-read author in France in 2016.

Slimani holds French and Moroccan citizenships. (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 1/31/2018.)

Book Reviews
Although the misery is universal, this story is uniquely, and often amusingly, French.… Possibly because of the book's Frenchness, nothing about Adele's behavior is pathologized until the very last pages. She submits only belatedly to therapy. Nobody tells her that she has a disease or ought to spend some time leafing through the D.S.M. Instead, Slimani approaches Adele's habits as a study in the art of tending a secret.… Adele has glanced at the covenant of modern womanhood—the idea that you can have it all or should at least die trying—and detonated it.
Molly Young - New York Times Book Review

Bold, stylish and deeply felt.
Wall Street Journal

Written in prose of elegant but never bloodless neutrality.… [Adele] leads readers through the labyrinth of desire into an understanding of solitude, isolation and the search for authenticity as our common fate.
Independent (UK)

Displays an undeniable literary power.
L’Express (France)

A slim, compelling read, Adele examines topics ranging from marriage and motherhood to adultery, but the overarching theme is the notion of freedom.… The plot of Adele recalls Kundera’s masterwork [The Unbearable Lightness of Being].
Vanity Fair

The feverish spark of obsession licks at the corner of nearly every page.
Entertainment Weekly

Sensational.… In her novels, home and hearth are a furnace, not a haven. Families are groups in which power struggles are conducted in close quarters, and with gloves off.

Exposes the dark desires of a seemingly normal woman.… Adele—and the reader—must come to terms with what it is we demand of women in modern times, and how those punishing requirements lead so many of us to crack and try and get autonomy through unorthodox means.

[F]ascinating…. Though some readers might feel the novel waits too long to explore why its protagonist feels compelled to behave the way she does, this is nevertheless a skillful character study. Slimani’s ending is the perfect conclusion to this memorable snapshot of sex addiction.
Publishers Weekly

[A]rtful, edgy…Although some of the secondary characters lack depth, Adele has it in spades…. The book's denouement may frustrate readers—but then, that rather seems the point.… [A]n unflinching exploration of female self-sacrifice and the elusive nature of satisfaction.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. On page 121, Slimani writes of Adele, "She understood that desire was unimportant." What do you think this means? Why does Adele feel so compelled to have sex with different men?

2. Did your opinion of Adele change when you learned more about her relationship with her mother?

3. Every so often, it seems that Adele is going to turn over a new leaf. For example, on page 48, Slimani writes, "She is going to clean up her life. One by one, she is going to jettison her anxieties. She is going to do her duty." Do you think she really wants to get better? Do you think she ever will?

4. Was Richard right to try to create a sense of routine and security for Adele toward the end of the novel? What would you have done in his place?

5. How did you interpret the novel’s ending? Do you think Adele will come back?

6. Did you feel sympathy for Adele? What about for Richard?

7. Slimani has said that this novel was loosely based on the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a French politician and former managing director of the International Monetary Fund who said that he was suffering from sex addiction after being charged with sexual assault in 2011. What do you think of Slimani’s decision to make the main character a woman?

8. Slimani’s first novel, The Perfect Nanny, was about a seemingly flawless nanny who ended up killing her two young charges. If you read The Perfect Nanny, did you notice any similarities between the two novels?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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