"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--as well as Sex and Lies and In the Country of Others, 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.
One of O, The Oprah Magazine’s 10 Titles to Pick Up Now
One of Time’s 11 New Books to Read This January
One of Entertainment Weekly’s 20 New Books to Read in January
One of amNewYork’s 8 New Novels to Read in 2019
One of The Million’s Most Anticipated of 2019
One of Nylon’s 50 Books You’ll Want to Read in 2019
“Bold, stylish and deeply felt.” —
The Wall Street Journal
“A slim, compelling read,
Adèle examines topics ranging from marriage and motherhood to adultery, but the overarching theme is the notion of freedom. . . . The plot of
Adèle recalls Kundera’s masterwork [
The Unbearable Lightness of Being].” —
“The feverish spark of obsession licks at the corner of nearly every page.” —
“Sultry, polarizing.” —
New York, The Approval Matrix: Highbrow/Brilliant
“[A] short but weighty book about a self-destructive wife and mother caught in the throes of sex addiction.” —
New York, “6 New Paperbacks You Should Read This January”
“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.” —
“A feminasty thriller.” —
O, The Oprah Magazine
“Engrossing . . . Bracing . . . [A] frisson of tension propels
Adèle. . . . Shattering.” —
San Francisco Chronicle
“Brave . . . A skillfully turned novel that gives us nothing we expect . . . Its clean, affectless prose may recall Camus. (A gifted stylist, Slimani can pack a sneaky wallop when she wants.) . . . Any Slimani novel is a major event.” —
The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Bracingly erotic . . . Once again Slimani unveils a story which reads us and our moral reactions as we turn its pages.” —
John Freeman, Lit Hub
“If Sally Rooney is her generation’s essential writer on sex, Slimani . . . is its most compelling writer on violence. Her prose is grotesque and vivid; indulging nothing that doesn’t need to be indulged.” —
The New Statesman
“Bracing . . . Elegantly written . . . Provocatively enigmatic.” —
“Thrilling . . . The tight pacing and spare style that had readers hooked to [
The Perfect Nanny] are still here. . . . Slimani is one of the few contemporary authors—along, perhaps, with Rachel Cusk and Deborah Levy—writing intelligently about motherhood today.” —
The Sunday Times (U.K.)
“One of the most unusual books I’ve ever read. Get a copy if you can, and be prepared to be shaken and stirred by a feat of great writing on an intriguing subject.” —
Lorraine Candy, The Sunday Times (U.K.)
“Unsparingly lucid . . . [Written] in taut, lithe prose . . . A tender and troubling novel.” —
“A riveting and psychologically rich novel, its final pages particularly stirring . . . A story that will strike a chord with many women . . . Slimani is a fearless writer who pulls back the curtain to show what secretly thrills and terrifies women.” —
“Very racy . . . Intensely graphic . . . Set to cause shockwaves on a global scale.” —
“[Slimani] writes with a cool detachment and unflinching emotional honesty that takes your breath away. . . . [She is] as eloquent on aftermath and exile as the chase of the high.” —
“Haunted and compulsive . . . gripping.” —
Words Without Borders
“Fascinating . . . A dizzying array of sex scenes . . . One can’t be prepared for
The AV Club
“No man would have dared write what she did. It’s an extraordinary first novel.” —
Alain Mabanckou, author of Black Moses and judge for the La Mamounia Prize
Adèle exposes the contradictory urges of modern womanhood: to want to control and lose control; to mother and destroy; to be adored by many but needed by no one; to be irreproachable in conduct but free to live as she desires. It is a timely, startling read that I dare you to put down.” —
Courtney Maum, author of Touch
“Searing, incisive, fearless, and a damn fine read.” —
Elisa Albert, author of After Birth and The Book of Dahlia
“What’s really compelling about the way Slimani writes Adèle is that she doesn’t try to psychologize her or really account for her motivations. . . . Slimani makes no apologies for her character. But neither are we meant to see her as some kind of unlikable anti-heroine. She’s just a woman with certain desires, full stop, and Slimani is more interested in exploring her reckoning with them than in justifying or explaining them.” —
Lauren Elkin, author of Flaneuse
“[Slimani] is now the archetype of a certain international image of a female French author: talented, open-minded, and politically engaged.” —
Vanity Fair (France), “The 50 Most Influential French People in the World”
“Exposes the dark desires of a seemingly normal woman . . . Adèle—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.” —
Nylon, “50 Books You’ll Want to Read in 2019”
“Almost heart-wrenching . . . Slimani’s terse prose hurls toward its inevitable conclusion.” —
“Cancel your plans, because you’ll finish this addictive novel in one weekend.” —
“Slimani’s fascinating follow-up to
The Perfect Nanny . . . is a skillful character study. Slimani’s ending is the perfect conclusion to this memorable snapshot of sex addiction.” —
“Eminently relatable . . . Artful, edgy . . . An unflinching exploration of female self-sacrifice and the elusive nature of satisfaction.” —
“[A] pacey page-turner . . . that keeps you guessing. . . . [Adèle is] a character that anyone who has ever felt a little unsatisfied with life should be able to relate to.”
—The Press Association
“Written in prose of elegant but never bloodless neutrality . . . [
Adèle] leads readers through the labyrinth of desire into an understanding of solitude, isolation and the search for authenticity as our common fate.”
“An explosive portrait of the claustrophobia that can come with marriage and motherhood and the damaging consequences of stifling women’s sexuality.”
—Irish Mail on Sunday
“Shocking . . . A brave choice for the international panel of judges [of the La Mamounia Prize] . . . [It] somehow slipped passed Moroccan censors, but it''s a safe bet no Moroccan publisher would have dared print it.” —
The Irish Times
“Displays an undeniable literary power.”
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.
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.
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.
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.’