Monday, 10 March 2014

Book Review- L'Astragale by Albertine Sarrazin


A jazz note played hard and fast, a high hat ticked by a brush, rim shots tapped sharp and crisp, saxophones blown blue and low, trumpets clean and clear - Dizzy Gillespie or Satchmo. Furious and intense but still playful. Parisian chic. Nicotine stained. The bite of Absinthe - Menthol fresh. Ricard poured in shot glasses. Turkish coffee, beans ground, strained and brewed poured thick and black into small cups and drunk in a café on Rue de la Santé. Of the beat generation but after the event. Hung over from the fifties for the sixties to embrace. Free love and sexually ambiguous. Boys and girls and girls and girls. Quirky as a dyke in a see-through raincoat wearing DM's, upon her hair a pink beret, a tattoo on her arm. 

Long dead author Albertine Sarrazin, sexy and strong as only a female of the species could be, wrote this tiny masterpiece in 1965. It could even be an autobiog dressed up as fiction. The central protagonist, nineteen-year-old Anne, escapes prison by climbing then jumping clear of the outer wall. In so doing she damages her ankle. A passing motorist, Julien, takes pity on her and hides her away. The story is told first hand by Anne who clearly is bi-sexual and who longs to be back with her girlfriend but who subsequently falls for Julien. At first, the ankle is thought to be merely twisted. It isn't until her foot turns blue that her new friends rush Anne to a hospital where it is diagnosed as fractured.

"I go along dragging my foot like a turtle lugs its shell."

From this point, and now in a different form of captivity, Anne relates her tale. Smoky, sultry and incredibly fast paced, this cult classic has all the verve of 'Kind of Blue' but mixed with the drive of 'Groovin' High.' It races along foot to the floor, pedal to the metal. The novel touches upon sex, sexuality, freedom and the suffering of women. It takes in relationships, petty jealousies, bitter rivalries, strange, unexpected encounters, longing, yearning, whoring and sudden rage. Never clichéd, forever direct. There are slower passage's, reflective moments when the sax turns mournful mauve but then the pace picks up again, the bass notes thrumming, the piano driving. The sure-footed authority of brassy prose, the way its impulse dives and rises, keeps the reader's attention fixed on each sentence, on each word.

"Pass me that glass of Pernod will you?

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.


LeeKwo said...

Great review/Love the jazz metaphors/I must follow up on this young woman/Thanks for the insight/Regards Lee Kwo/

Russell Duffy said...

Lee>>>Thanks again for all your support. I am about to start the second book in the trilogy, your trilogy!

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