What We’re Reading: Adèle, By Leïla Slimani 

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'I wanted to tell the story of a woman who was a liar and a bad person in the eyes of society’  Leïla Slimani

We place such importance on strong female characters, and I think, that what we often expect of those women is for them to be women who have and want it all: a career, children, a relationship. Adèle is a strong woman but not in the way you would expect. Slimani has written a character who is the opposite of the tropes of female perfection. Slimani describes her as a modern day Emma Bovary, a powerful woman who threatens to destroy her family.  She has it all but she is not satisfied; she doesn’t want more, she wants something different. She is fed up of the fancy house, she constantly cheats on her husband, she skips work to sleep with strangers, she hates being a mother. She’s someone who could be hated but as readers we still don’t hate her, we find ourselves willing her on, hoping her husband doesn’t find out.

We relate to something in her. Her lack of perfection is something I think we can all see in ourselves, even if our lives aren’t always as messy as hers. For me this is a feminist piece, showing us how women can, and should own their bodies. All too often we have to read misogynist literature by men about ‘slutty’ women who sleep around, but Slimani has reclaimed that narrative telling it through the eyes of a woman. Adèle seeks power through sex, she thrives on finding powerful men to succumb to her. Is Adèle herself a feminist? In the face of the #metoo movement, to begin with, it seems Adèle would not have felt so, but she may find herself needing it more as her husband tightens his grip and her downfall begins. 

Adèle by Leïla Slimani, translated by Sam Taylor, is published by Faber (£12.99).

Anna WardComment