Cover image for Adèle / Leila Slimani ; translated from the French by Sam Taylor.
Adèle / Leila Slimani ; translated from the French by Sam Taylor.
Publication Information:
[New York, New York] : Penguin Books, [2019]
Physical Description:
216, 9 pages ; 20 cm
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SLI Book Adult General Collection

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"Fascinating . . . Adèle 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." -- The New York Times Book Review

"[A] fierce, uncanny thunderbolt of a book." -- Entertainment Weekly

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.

Adèle 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, Adèle 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, Adèle is a captivating exploration of addiction, sexuality, and one woman's quest to feel alive.

Author Notes

Leila Slimani is the bestselling author of The Perfect Nanny, one of The New York Times Book Review 's 10 Best Books of the Year, for which she became the first Moroccan woman to win France's most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt . She won the La Mamounia prize for Adèle . A journalist and frequent commentator on women's and human rights, she is French president Emmanuel Macron's personal representative for the promotion of the French language and culture and was ranked #2 on Vanity Fair France's annual list of The Fifty Most Influential French People in the World. Born in Rabat, Morocco, in 1981, she now lives in Paris with her French husband and their two young children.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Slimani's fascinating follow-up to The Perfect Nanny chronicles the extramarital trysts of 35-year-old AdA"le Robinson. AdA"le's oblivious husband, Richard, often works long hours as a surgeon, though he's growing tired of his job at the hospital in Paris. He often floats the idea of moving with AdA"le and their three-year-old son, Lucien, to the deserted countryside. This idea enrages AdA"le, who spends her waking hours sating her sexual needs (her sexual life composes most of the story). Her job as a journalist proves handy, since she can come and go as she pleases. She often asks her best friend, Lauren, to cover for her when she goes out at night. AdA"le has seduced everyone from her boss, Cyril, to Lauren's lover to Richard's unattractive colleague, Xavier. She keeps a second cell phone that's crammed with the numbers of men she's willing to bed again. In the meantime, she does the bare minimum at work and will hand off her son at a moment's notice. The story takes a turn when it focuses on Richard and how he deals with his wife once he finds out about her sex life. 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. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

New York Review of Books Review

to be A recovering addict is to admit that your highest purpose is to avoid your worst impulses. Whether you regard this as a practical fact of life or a tragedy depends on your relationship to pleasure, and whether your particular pleasures are endorsed or reviled by your social environment. In the case of Adele Robinson, the pleasure is risky sex and the social environment is upper-middle-class Paris. Adele pounds champagne, eats potted yogurt, wears scarves and destroys lives. You in yet? "Adele" is the first novel by Leila Slimani, the French-Moroccan author of "The Perfect Nanny," which won one of France's most prestigious literary awards, the Prix Goncourt, in 2016 and was translated into almost three dozen languages. In the wake of nannymania, Slimani's debut novel has been made available in English, albeit with a title downgrade from its original "In the Garden of the Ogre." Adele is 35 years old, beautiful, a newspaper reporter who has been married nine years to a successful doctor. Despite her good fortune she harbors some Madame Bovary tendencies, aching for a life of pampered thrills and finding her own existence - a spacious apartment, luxury vacations - shabby. Her family's money "smells of work, of sweat and long nights spent at the hospital," she determines, "ft is not a passport to idleness or decadence." So she finds decadence by compulsively seducing strangers, co-workers and acquaintances, loathing the sex but finding comfort in the immediate aftermath, when she is "suspended between two worlds, the mistress of the present tense." That interim of numbness might seem like an underwhelming reward, but to someone as miserable as Adele it offers reprieve. Her descent is marked by the usual signs of addiction : an eroding sense of limits, a stream of banal lies, a metabolic incapacity for contentment. "Nothing ever happens fast enough," Adele thinks. Her life becomes a frenzied scheme to avoid boredom. Although the misery is universal, this story is uniquely, and often amusingly, French. Adele smokes too much. She spurns Hermes gifts from her husband, drinks wine at lunch and punishes herself after a night of regrettable sex by buying, and then barely pecking at, a "dry, cold pain au chocolat at the worst bakery in the neighborhood." The book would be a lot less fun if Adele were vaping and knocking back Munchkins like a red-blooded American adulteress. 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. In forming her identity Adele dismisses the traditional ingredients - gender, race, job, class, motherhood - and focuses entirely on her ability to maintain a hidden life. Private domestic espionage is her creed. If the central idea of the book is a fascinating one, the prose is not always impeccable. Dialogue can be flat. Clichés are abundant. One character "plays his last card," another "refuses to move an inch," and a third pleads, "You can't go on like this." Still, I liked this earlier novel much more than "The Perfect Nanny," which doesn't have an everyday iconoclast like Adele: a person who finds work boring, motherhood tedious, friends overrated and marriage a trial. 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 is a contributing writer for The Times Magazine and the co-author, with Joana Avillez, of "D-C-T."



Adèle has been good. She has held out for a week now. She hasn't given in. She has run twenty miles in the past four days. From Pigalle to the Champs-Elysées, from the Musée d'Orsay to Bercy. In the mornings, she has gone running on the deserted banks of the Seine. At night, on the Boulevard Rochechouart and the Place de Clichy. She hasn't touched a drop of alcohol and she has gone to bed early. But tonight she dreamed about it and she couldn't fall back asleep. A torrid dream that went on forever, that entered her like a breath of hot wind. Now Adèle can think of nothing else. She gets up and drinks a strong black coffee. The house is silent. In the kitchen she hops about restlessly. She smokes a cigarette. Standing in the shower, she wants to scratch herself, to rip her body in two. She bangs her forehead against the wall. She wants someone to grab her and smash her skull into the glass door. As soon as she shuts her eyes she hears the noises: sighs, screams, blows. A naked man panting, a woman coming. She wishes she were just an object in the midst of a horde. She wants to be devoured, sucked, swallowed whole. She wants fingers pinching her breasts, teeth digging into her belly. She wants to be a doll in an ogre's garden. She doesn't wake anyone. She gets dressed in the dark and does not say goodbye. She is too nervous to smile or have a conversation. Adèle leaves the house and walks the empty streets. Head down and nauseous, she descends the stairs of the Jules-Joffrin metro station. On the platform a mouse runs across her boot and startles her. In the carriage, Adèle looks around. A man in a cheap suit is watching her. He has badly shined shoes with pointed tips. He's ugly. He might do. So might that student with his arm around his girlfriend, kissing her neck. Or that middle-aged man standing by the window who reads his book and doesn't even glance at her. She picks up a day-old newspaper from the seat opposite. She turns the pages. The headlines blur, she can't concentrate. Exasperated, she puts it down. She can't stay here. Her heart is banging hard in her chest, she's suffocating. She loosens her scarf, unwinds it from around her sweat-soaked neck and drops it in an empty seat. She stands up, unbuttons her coat. Holding onto the door handle, her legs shaken by tremors, she is ready to jump. She's forgotten her telephone. She sits down again and empties her handbag, A powder compact falls to the floor. She tugs at a bra strap entwined with earbuds. Seeing the bra, she tells herself she needs to be more careful. She can't have forgotten her phone. If she has, she'll have to go back to the house, come up with an excuse. But no, here it is. It was there all the time, she just didn't see it. She tidies her handbag. She has the feeling that everyone is staring at her. That the whole carriage is sneering at her panic, her burning cheeks. She opens the little flip phone and laughs when she sees the first name. Adam. It's no use anyway. Wanting to is the same as giving in. The dam has been breached. What good would it do to hold back now? Life wouldn't be any better. She's thinking like a drug addict, like a gambler. She was so pleased with herself for not having yielded to temptation for a few days that she forgot about the danger. She gets to her feet, lifts the sticky latch, the door opens. Madeleine station. She pushes her way through the crowd that swells like a wave around the carriage and gushes inside. Adèle looks for the exit. Boulevard des Capucines. She starts to run. Let him be there, let him be there . Outside the storefront windows she hesitates. She could catch the Métro here: Line 9 would take her directly to the office, she'd be there in time for the editorial meeting. She paces around the Métro entrance, lights a cigarette. She presses her handbag to her body. Some Romanian women in headscarves have spotted her. They advance toward her, holding out their stupid petition. Adèle rushes off. She enters Rue Lafayette in a trance, gets lost and has to retrace her steps. Rue Bleue. She types in the code and goes inside, runs upstairs to the second floor and knocks on the heavy wooden door. 'Adèle...' Adam smiles. His eyes are puffy with sleep and he's naked. 'Don't speak.' Adèle takes off her coat and throws herself at him. 'Please.' 'You could call, you know... It's not even eight yet...' Adèle is already naked. She scratches his neck, pulls his hair. He doesn't care. He's hard. He shoves her violently, slaps her face. She grabs his dick and pushes it inside her. Up against the wall, she feels him enter and her anxieties dissolve. Her sensations return. Her soul is lighter, her head an empty space. She grips Adam's arse and drives him into her angrily, ever faster. She is possessed, in a fever, desperately trying to reach another place. 'Harder, harder,' she screams. She knows this body and that annoys her. It's too simple, too mechanical. Her surprise arrival did not transform Adam. Their lovemaking is not obscene enough or tender enough. She puts Adam's hands on her breasts, tries to forget that it's him. She closes her eyes and imagines that he's forcing her. Already he is somewhere else. His jaw tenses. He turns her around. As always, he pushes Adèle's head down toward the floor with his right hand and grabs her hip with his left. He thrusts hard, he groans, he comes. Adam tends to get carried away. Adèle gets dressed with her back to him. She's embarrassed at him seeing her naked. 'I'm late for work. I'll call you.' 'As you like,' replies Adam. He smokes a cigarette, leaning against the kitchen door. With one hand, he touches the condom hanging from the end of his penis. Adèle looks away. 'I can't find my scarf. Have you seen it? It's grey cashmere. I'm really fond of it.' 'I'll look for it. I can give it to you next time.' Excerpted from Adèle: A Novel by Leila Slimani All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.