Cover image for In his arms : a novel
In his arms : a novel
Laurens, Camille.
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Dans ces bras-là. English
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, 2004.
Physical Description:
245 pages ; . 22 cm
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An international bestseller translated into twelve languages and the winner of France's prestigious Prix Femina Our narrator, Camille, loves men. One might say she's obsessed with them. The latest object of her affection is a psychiatrist, and what better way to seduce a psychiatrist than by laying bare the intricacies of her own mind? Camille becomes his patient and slowly unveils her romantic, sexual, and psychological secrets by telling the story of her life through the men she has known: father, teacher, lover, letch; husband, brother, boss, and friend. In His Armswas a phenomenon in France, where it became an obsessive topic of conversation among women of all ages. In the tradition of Marguerite Duras'sThe Loverand Susan Minot'sRapture, it is a stylish, sensual novel about love in all its guises--first love and married love; secret love; adulterous love; frenzied, embarrassed, speechless love--and the story of Camille's last conquest, one made not by hiding or distorting who she is but by revealing everything.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

The male-obsessed Camille, a French librarian and author, narrates this tale while her marriage dissolves. She sees a strange man in a restaurant, follows him, and, discovering that he is a psychiatrist, becomes his patient. Camille describes to her editor the nature of her next novel: a book in which the female character is defined, not by women but by men: father, temporary and lasting lovers, husband (on his way out), and the psychiatrist himself. In short chapters, the narration changes from first-person sessions with Abel the psychiatrist to third-person descriptions of Camille's relations to and with the other men in her life, conveying in the process an extraordinary amount of information about the characters' erotic, cultural and religious lives. This challenging, beautifully written story within a story is both self-conscious and clever and is rich with literary references. It evokes such different novels as Milan Kundera's Immortality (1991), where the author participates as a character, and Erica Jong's Fear of Flying, with its eroticism and unflattering descriptions of a discarded husband. This best-selling novel won the Prix Femina and has been translated into 12 languages. Tres formidable! --Ellen Loughran Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Laurens's seventh novel was her breakout book: a bestseller in her native France and winner of the Prix Femina, it is also her first to be translated into English. But it will have a hard time finding its footing here. The story follows a novelist and librarian named Camille (who is also working on a novel about a woman named Camille) through therapy, and thus through the stories of her life specifically, her loves. From her unhappy father and fond grandfather, to her schoolgirl romances and her husband, "a blend of gentleman thief and athletic boatman," to the man she's just fallen for at first sight, whom she ends up engaging as her therapist, "all my life," Camille says, "I have only been interested in men." Her troubles, among them that her parents' union and her own are marked by infidelities and that she has fallen into a consuming love just as her marriage is coming apart, seem very French, as does her solution: upsetting the rules by "seducing a man, but not by the normal approach of concealing everything from him.... But instead by telling him everything." In other words, she seduces her therapist. The sultry prose of this story-within-a-story is broken into chapters ranging from one paragraph to several pages and shifting forward and back in time and point of view (there's Camille the narrator's first-person story, and Camille the character's third-person tale); there's an homage to Barthes and a flash of Lacan. Laurens's novel is a meditation on passion and the self, but it is a self-conscious and humorless one. Agent, Lucinda Karter. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



he was the one. From the way my heart was pounding, I just knew that I couldn't be wrong. I realize that such sudden certainty hardly seems credible. But that's the way it was. i stood up, left my still-full glass on the table, paid, and followed him. He walked fast, as fast as I did. I liked the way he was dressed, his narrow hips, his beautiful shoulders. I didn't want to lose him. A couple of blocks farther on, he vanished through a doorway. By the time I got there and pushed the heavy door open, he'd already disappeared into one of the flats. But which one? Not a sound could be heard in the stairwell, and the elevator was still on the ground floor. How to find out? I silently went upstairs. The steps were carpeted. It was a fancy three-story apartment building, with two doors on each landing. Most of them had brass nameplates, and some were quiet, while others emitted the sound of voices, or the ringing of a telephone. Worried that I would be discovered, motionlessly listening and staring on a doormat, I went back down again. the mailboxes didn't tell me much: some had names, some didn't. They were of that ancient sort that has a slit you can slip your hand into. Outside, the gleaming nameplates yielded more information as they sent back distorted reflections of my face, but without helping me in my quest. All of the occupants were practicing doctors of one kind or another, except one who was an attorney. how to discover which one he was? He could, of course, have been the lawyer. He certainly looked like one--that said, I'd only ever really met one lawyer, a few weeks previously, and he looked like an arms dealer--let's just say that he was an ideal image of a lawyer, the way a widow or orphan would instinctively describe one. But he could just as easily have been a doctor. There were several possible candidates, and I examined them carefully. Suddenly, their names no longer seemed arbitrary, and became more like signs from which I tried to extract a meaning, as one does from a stranger's face. By some mysterious correspondence between people and places, the names of the occupants of that turn-of-the-century building all sounded ancient, their first names outdated: Raymond Lecointre, Raoul Dulac, Paulette Mézières, Armand de Sade--no, wait a minute, I'd misread the last on the list. Not Armand, but Amand, Amand de Shade, pediatrician, diploma from the University Hospital of Paris. That's right, Amand, I'm not making this up, it really exists, it's in the dictionary of Christian names as the masculine form of Amandine, from the Latin amandus, or "chosen for love," the most famous Amand being a monk who set about converting Gaul circa 680, as I learned from the reference book which I consulted that very evening. "Chosen for love" could certainly be him, it fit perfectly. While coincidences may seem contrived in a novel, in real life they answer to a need that surprises none of us. Amand de Shade, it just had to be him, elected for love and picked out for me under the seal of the deepest secrecy, Amand de Shade, the shadow lover that I now had to turn into my prey, into light, into a sun. I nevertheless conscientiously looked through the other names: there was Roger Bosc, a masseur/physiotherapist specializing in post-traumatic counseling and, also on the top floor, Abel Waits, a psychoanalyst specializing in marriage counseling--they both worked in the same field, in fact. I eliminated them because, given that I had arrived in the entrance hall just after him, I would have heard a key turn in a lock, or a door opening or closing, if he had gone all the way up to the third floor. So I stuck to my initial intuition (first floor, left door) and jotted down his phone number (my elder daughter had a cold she couldn't seem to shrug off). At that moment, the door opened, releasing a whiff of camphor followed by an old lady, who stared at me suspiciously--whatever was I doing there? I looked down at my notepad--was this the concierge?--then watched her draw away, slipping along the pavement with that ease of movement that people have who always wear skates at home, as far as the corner of the avenue--would I end up as sluggish as her one day?--at which point I came equally slowly to the conclusion that he, too, might just be a client, a patient, and I stared down dumbly at my pad--whatever was I doing there? I waited. I waited for him to come out, to reappear, I just couldn't leave. I was scared that everything would come crashing down, that from a distance things would no longer look the same, that this was all meaningless. I wanted to see him again, I wanted it to be true, for the shadow to take on flesh. As the street contained no cafés to wait in comfort, shop windows to wait with interest, or bus stops to wait with a reason, I waited in the form of a statue depicting my humble little self at the foot of that building, as though one of those nymphs, generally found shedding the tears of fountains in courtyards, had been shifted out onto the pavement . . . Someone else would have gone about it in a different way, by inspecting the waiting rooms, questioning the secretaries, pretending that there had been an emergency. But I just couldn't. I could neither give up nor take action, only wait--but isn't waiting for someone a way of being with him? He didn't show up. Distraught and numb, I waited for nearly an hour. I needed him. Several people emerged, but not him. I therefore concluded that he wasn't a client, that he worked there, and that I'd know where to find him again. I finally left because it was almost four o'clock and I had an appointment with my editor. And if there's one person who detests arriving late, out of breath, your heart pounding and distress written all over your face, that person is me. Excerpted from In His Arms: A Novel by Camille Laurens All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.