Overwhelmed by the huge success of her latest novel, exhausted and unable to begin writing her next book, Delphine meets L.
L. is the kind of impeccable, sophisticated woman who fascinates Delphine; a woman with smooth hair, perfectly filed nails and a gift for saying the right thing. Delphine finds herself irresistibly drawn to her, the friendship growing as their meetings, notes and texts increase. But as L. begins to dress like Delphine, and, in the face of Delphine’s crippling inability to write, even offers to answer her emails, their relationship rapidly intensifies. L. becomes more and more involved in Delphine’s life until she patiently takes control and turns it upside down, slowly, surely, insidiously.
Based on a True Story is a chilling novel of suspense that will leave you questioning the truth and its significance long after you have turned the final page.
I liked this ambiguous read, a work of fiction by an author called Delphine, about an author called Delphine who has written a very successful book, possibly autobiographical but combining some fictional aspects, but for Delphine nothing is true or false, everything falls somewhere in between. Along comes L. who strongly feels the world (and Delphine’s audience) have had enough of fiction and people want the truth and for Delphine to write more authentically about her personal truth. What follows is a very slow story, told retrospectively by Delphine about how L .subtly but entirely takes over her life, exhorting full control and isolating Delphine and ultimately endangering her life.
We know where this is going from the start but I liked this character novel for its study of the relationship between L. and Delphine, at just short of 374 pages this book felt quite long and it was not until the final 100 pages that this really picked up with L.’s behaviour becoming more extreme and then a clever plot twist which led to an unresolved and ambiguous ending which I was impressed by. The build up was interesting though as L. moved from ‘perfect friend’ to something else, Delphine; weakened by the relationship is left unsure, is she being paranoid or not. The reader is also aware that Delphine has had some previous, but undisclosed mental health issues, which serves to further cast doubt.
The play on fact and fiction was clever as this evolved between the 2 main characters with me being convinced by the ‘no one truth’ argument and notably in this book the reader is only hearing one side of this story. The relationship between L. and Delphine was fascinating as was the slow obliteration of Delphine by L. There was much not told in this story but lots alluded to which allowed the reader to fill in the gaps but also made for an overall intriguing read.
This book was very well translated from French to English, the writing was elegant but was not obviously a translated work at any point. Delphine de Vigan is an author I was not previously familiar with but is someone I would be interested in reading more of.
A read for fans of slow building stories, character driven and ambiguous, a little long but overall recommended by me.
Thanks as always for reading.
About the Author
Delphine de Vigan is the author of the bestselling No and Me, which was awarded the Prix des Libraires in France and was a Richard & Judy selection in Britain. Her other novels include Nothing Holds Back the Night, which won the Prix FNAC and the Grand Prix FNAC des Lectrices de Elle, and Underground Time which was shortlisted for the Prix Goncourt in 2009. D’apres une histoire vraie is a French bestseller and is currently being adapted for a screenplay by Roman Polanski and Olivier Assayas. Delphine de Vigan lives in Paris.
George Miller is the translator of Nothing Holds Back the Night, No and Me and Underground Time. He is also a regular translator for Le Monde diplomatique’s English – language edition, and the translator of Conversations with my Gardener by Henri Cueco and Disordered World by Amin Maalouf.