Cadavre exquis

Summary: Zoe isn’t exactly the intellectual type, which is why she doesn’t recognize world-famous author Thomas Rocher when she stumbles into his apartment . . . and into his life.

Zoe doesn’t know Balzac from Batman, but she’s going to have to wise up fast . . . because Rocher has a terrible secret, and now Zoe is sitting on the literary scandal of the century.

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Cadavre exquis, by Pénélope Bagieu 7.5

‘Cadavre exquis’ is the debut graphic novel by popular blogger Pénélope Bagieu, whose “Ma vie est tout à fait fascinante”, a biographical webcomic, took France by storm in 2007-08. It recounts the story of Zoé, a young adult, as she tries to sort out her miserable existence.

Stuck in an uninspiring job as a convention hostess, and a dead-end relationship with a lazy, disinterested, rude slob, Zoé finds herself under pressure from her work friends to make some changes. However, she has no inspiration and no motivation to do anything about it.

Then, one day, she sees a mysterious young man peering through a closed curtain in a midlevel apartment complex. Curious, she goes to introduce herself to him. Taken with her, the suspicious man decides to let her into his life and, in so doing, brings about the changes she needs.

I actually picked up this book after stumbling upon Bagieu’s ‘Joséphine’ book at my local library and requesting all of her works sight-unseen, out of curiosity. While I was quickly bored with Joséphine and its stereotypical female characters, I gave ‘Cadavre exquis’ a look anyway.

I think that it must have been the title (i.e. “Exquisite corpse”).

In any event, though the book didn’t blow me away, it portrayed realistic characters and relationships – though few of them were appealing or endearing ones. Zoé, for instance, is one of any directionless twenty-somethings who let the currents take them instead of biting into life.

She isn’t exactly a stellar role model.

As for Thomas, her mystery man, he’s a reclusive author who’s afraid of life. Everything about him is ego: he does his work mostly for the acclaim and he’s an attention sponge. But he remains selfish. As for his ex and editor, Agathe, she’s bright but extremely manipulative.

Still, it was interesting the way Bagieu led us from the staleness of Zoé’s everyday into this new dynamic with Thomas and how she peeled away Thomas’ secrets. There was always something to keep the page turning, and by the time I got to the surprise twist at the end, I was satisfied.

‘Cadavre exquis’ isn’t the book of the year for me, but it was a good read. I very much enjoyed Bagieu’s art, which is clean but a bit sketchy; it gave the story a fresh look. ‘Joséphine’ would not have compelled me to explore her works further, but this easily makes up for it.

Bagieu is an author worth discovering.

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