Monday 22 April 2019

Adele: Seedy world of a sex addict

Fiction: Adele

Leila Slimani

Faber & Faber €13.65

Adele
Adele

Anne Marie Scanlon

Adele lives with her surgeon husband, Richard, and their three-year-old son Lucien in an upmarket Paris apartment. She has a high-profile job as a political journalist. She is thin and beautiful and has it all. But Adele is a sex addict. Sex addiction can easily be dismissed as a laughing matter, but this gripping novel by Leila Slimani (a follow-up to her international bestseller Lullaby about a nanny who murders the children she looks after) reveals the grim reality of compulsive sex, "her obsessions devour her. She is helpless to stop them."

Like all addicts, Adele is seeking oblivion and relief rather than thrills. Slimani nails the compulsion in the opening chapter, where Adele eyes up a variety of unattractive men on the train thinking that one of them 'will do'. In order to maintain her 'habit' Adele lies to everyone and lives with consistent stress and paranoia on top of the guilt and shame she feels. She resents her husband, her child and her employers for getting in the way of her pursuing sexual encounters.

Adele has one good friend, Lauren, whom she mistreats in a casual off-hand way and she overspends in order to feed her addiction. While other addictions destroy families, the added multiple intimate betrayals involved in sex addiction make any sort of understanding or forgiveness of the addict near impossible.

When Adele's husband inevitably finds out that his wife has been leading a double life, he is devastated. "Adele had ripped up his world. She has sawn the legs off the furniture, she has scratched all the mirrors… Memories, promises… none of it means anything any more. Their life is a fake." Adele is a woman of contradictions who can have sex with a total stranger in an alleyway yet fear that strange men might rape and attack her. Fear is constant - fear of being found out, fear of not getting what she wants and fear of getting it. Slimani never lets us really know why Adele is compelled to have increasingly dangerous liaisons with strangers, just that it is not a choice.

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