The audacity of Adèle

One of my best friends, Mélodie, gave me this book for my birthday and her cute little note said that it was meant to fuel my blog, which she is so so supportive of. I love the stories there are behind the books we own, sometimes they add so much more meaning to them. 

This book is about Adèle, as you would have guessed from the cover of the book. It’s written by Leïla Slimani, who is French-Moroccan and known for not holding back. Very early on, you can tell that Adèle has a thirst that cannot be quenched. That thirst puts her in horrible situations, where she experiences a lot of anxiety from. She is addicted to sex, but she is also in a monogamous marriage. She chooses to sleep with other men to fulfill her sexual needs, and you know that it is a train wreck waiting to happen.

I have to say that I was shocked by the way this was written down. There I was, nine in the morning, on a public bus on my way to work and I read the words: “she grabbed his dick”. I knew the book was going to be about sex addiction, but that it would be so straightforward? I love a woman who can write like this though. It shows Slimani’s lack of fear for making things explicit, just like some men have done for ages. Writing this book, about this subject and making it explicit makes Slimani a rebel writer because it is often not accepted that women ‘behave’ in such a way. It also fit Adèle’s character, who talks like that to the men she sleeps with.

Spoilers ahead

At first it seems that Adèle doesn’t care about her marriage at all, and just wants to sleep around. However, soon enough you start learning about the complex feelings Adèle has. This intrigued me and I thought it really added an extra layer to this story. She is often disgusted by the men she sleeps with and knows very well that it is only a means to an end. Her desires, however, will never be fully fulfilled. At the same time, she promises herself every time that she will never do it again. She thinks that Richard, her husband, and her child are more than enough in her life. But eventually she always caves for her needs, especially after a drink or two. The risks she takes are unbelievable. For example, she goes to a dinner party of one of Richard’s friends and she tries to get with that friend while Richard is in the other room. The audacity of Adèle. Torn between emotions.

Of course, Adèle is headed down a reckless path of self-destruction and it is eventual that she gets caught. I didn’t mind that because I felt sorry for her husband and didn’t have a lot of sympathy for her. But what Slimani did so brilliantly is made me dislike her husband in the end as well. Even though he has every right to be angry at Adèle, I don’t think he treated her kindly when he realizes she has an actual problem. He could have left her, and that would have been justified, but he decides to stick around and clings so much to her that he suffocates her. Adèle really needed some professional help, and even though she starts going to therapy for her sex addiction, I think it was mentioned too casually. A deeper insight into her psyche would have been that extra bit that I missed in this book.

I am not going to spoil the ending too much, but I will say that it was an open one. I usually like open endings because they leave so much up to the imagination. However, I was mostly confused by this one and really didn’t think the story was in any way satisfactory. This is of course the trick Slimani plays on us. She turns the readers into Adèle, who cannot fulfill their need no matter how hard they stare at the page.

All in all, I devoured this book in two days – although it’s not a big book – and if you like some explicit language and a way into the mind of someone who has a sex addiction, this is the book for you. I think sex addiction is often not talked about, it’s still a taboo especially when it concerns women. This is why I’m happy books like this get written about.

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