A Review: Philippe Malzieu’s “Pothos: A Novella”

PothosTwo lovers rendezvous in a coffee shop, and the story which transpires from there challenges the reviewer to choose from a multitude of adjectives which could appropriately describe what follows: dark, passionate, suspenseful, twisted, etc.  The protagonist doctor meets with his actress/lover Juliette in a coffee shop.  The conversation leads to a break-up of the relationship, which is redefined in the following chapters.

The author is demonstrably well-educated by the thoroughness with which he injects cultured references into his novella.  References to French literature, an Italian vacation, Greek mythology, some Latin phrases, fine wine, gourmet food, allusions to famous paintings, and philosophical discussions all inject richness into the narrative which more than establishes the narrator’s credibility as an intelligent person of means.  This sophistication is further solidified by the narrator’s expressed disdain for non-intellectuals, those who enjoy a “beer—burp—urine environment” commonly frequented by those who observe and/or play team sports.

The cultured charm seemingly infused into every page in this novella unfortunately cannot replace the need for a solid, driving plot.  After the narrator relationship with Juliette expires, he takes the reader along on a flashback of their romantic exhibitionist vacation before offering a night-shift tour of a psychiatric hospital and its inhabitants with his coworker Bruno.  Even two-thirds the way through this novella, I was unsure to what purpose the protagonist was heading.  This is surely not a drama (I supposed), nor a murder mystery (for it does not seem that anyone has died), and even two-thirds the way through this novella, I was unsure to what purpose the protagonist was heading.  At the conclusion of this novella, many questions remain which could be resolved by adding depth to the characters and clarifying the plot.  However, the overall writing talent and intelligence of the author is undeniable.

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