A review of Vestido de novia, Pierre Lemaitre. Alfaguara (2014)
You do not have time. You need to escape as soon as you can. You need to turn pages without stopping. This is the feeling that you have when reading Sophie Duguet’s story, a woman who forgets things, who cannot remember what she has done just a few minutes before. But this is not the strangest thing of Vestido de novia, the thriller written by the winner of Goncourt prize, Pierre Lemaitre, which has been translated into Spanish five years after its publication in France.
Sophie spends her days crying, smoking cigarettes and glancing, obsessively, at the clock. She’s totally lost and confused just as we (the readers) are, at least throughout the first part of the novel. The book is actually divided into four parts and the story has two plot twists that change the meaning of everything. The details are revealed to us in small doses and probably all the hypotheses that you have been creating will be destroyed just a few pages later.
Who is Sophie? Sophie Duguet is a thirty-year-old widow, but she is also a motherless woman who works as a nanny for the Gervais family, in Paris, taking care of Léo, a six-year-old child. But the fate, or so it seems, will not let her stay in this house for long. Actually, she cannot stay in anywhere for too long. How could a woman end up in this situation? Why is she so alone? How could we escape of this authentic nightmare?
She must be a criminal. Otherwise, why has she bloody hands and a corpse lying at her feet? The Police is looking for her and newspapers explain the atrocities she has committed. Crime evidences are overwhelming but she does not want to enter a psychiatric centre. Of course Sophie knows she is kind of crazy but she tries to solve her lack of memory by writing in a notebook everything she does. Nevertheless, it is made clear that this is not enough.
The author of this book, Pierre Lemaitre, knows how to make us read compulsively. Short, simple and direct sentences and a plot that manages to surprise the reader once and again. The narrator changes, there is a voice that speaks in first person, but there is also a third person story-writer and even a second person lines. All this literary devices used by Lemaitre contribute to make us fear and, for sure, to make us read without end.
Although this is just the third book by Lamaitre translated to Spanish, he had already written other thrillers in French, which have brought him recognition and awards for his projects in this genre. Moreover, some of his novels, Vestido de novia included, are being adapted for cinema.
As I have said, it is easy to read the book but this does not mean that the whole story is not perfectly built. Furthermore, even things that seem to make no sense have a good explanation and a reason in the end. In fact, we could affirm that in this story nothing is exactly what it seems to be. As it happens in real life, sometimes we can find in the past the reasons why the present is the way it is. But could a murderer have an explanation? Why is she forgetting all the things she does? And, the most vital question, who owns the wedding dress that gives name to the title?
The novel is sometimes scary and sometimes suffocating but, either way, you want to find the answer to all the questions that the book set. In a few days or, maybe just in a few hours, you can discover the whole truth about the mysterious story of Sophie Duguet, 291 pages in which you will find the right amount of a pleasant fear. A real page turner, Vestido de novia, makes a perfect read for both people who are thriller enthusiasts and those who read this kind of novel for the first time. Indeed, it is a perfect introduction: gripping and scary; creepy and captivating.