Margot Louve is the product of a two-decades long affair between a married public figure and a well-known actress. In the final year of high school, Margot concludes (perhaps in part due to some clever persuasion by an attractive male journalist) that she is ready to expose the lie that is her life and go public with her story—anonymously. From there, The Margot Affair goes on and on—in a good way.
Sanaë Lemoine is a writer who trusts her readers. Her stark prose, which readers may need some time to get into its rhythm, is minimally descriptive and relatively unadorned, letting the complexity of the story shine through the characters’ interactions and not so much through acrobatic wording. Lemoine zooms in on ugliness, hurt and deceit, such as when Margot stars in a friend’s short film and someone comments about the size of her pores on screen, how her skin looks like the surface of the moon. In fact, much of the novel has a very cinematic quality to it, in the vein of classic French cinema. The anecdotal nature of the dialogue is very filmlike as well, and we are treated to an amazing vantage point to witness the characters inspire action from one another.
These are the female characters we’ve been waiting for. These women are complicated, nuanced, hypocritical—not the “strong female lead” we’re always being talked into tolerating. These women are dealing with intergenerational suffering, narrated by an astute 17-year-old on the cusp of adulthood. Margot’s forays into the adult world are both fascinating and nail-biting.
While there are a few jaw-dropping moments of plot advancement, this is not a suspense or mystery novel. Paris is not portrayed through a particularly romantic lens but instead as the only place Margot has ever lived. The Margot Affair is perfect for Francophiles, fans of literary fiction and explorers of interpersonal relationships.