cover image A Beast in Paradise

A Beast in Paradise

Cecile Coulon, trans. from the French by Tina Kover. Europa, $17 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-609-45647-4

Coulon’s excellent English-language debut, winner of the Le Monde Literary Prize, is an engrossing domestic drama centering on the love affair between ambitious Alexandre and passionate Blanche. After Blanche’s parents die in a car crash when she’s five, she and her brother are raised by Emilienne, their formidable maternal grandmother, whose devotion to her grandchildren is matched only by her dedication to her ancestral farm: Paradise. Blanche excels at school and develops a similarly unyielding commitment to Paradise as she cares for the livestock and sells eggs at the local market. At 17, Blanche falls in love with Alexandre, who is determined to leave behind their sleepy small town, and her heart is broken when he moves away after high school. When Alexandre returns 12 years later with plans to court Blanche and convince her grandmother to sell parts of Paradise, Blanche willfully ignores subtle signs of his true intentions—to scam her grandmother—and heedlessly pursues him. Coulon’s luscious descriptions of Blanche’s consuming love for both Alexandre and Paradise allows for a powerful, riveting exploration of obsession and encroaching modernity. This sensual, bold novel will surprise and delight. (Feb.)