Colin Timothy Gagnon (sacredspud) wrote,
Colin Timothy Gagnon

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Adventures in European Torture Porn

Another weird book experience.

Back in mid-February, I received a book that I'd purchased online, Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet. It's the English translation of a popular french novel called Mygale, which was originally published in 2003. I distinctly remember buying this book on Amazon at the end of November. It has never been published in the United States, so I had to buy a used British copy. American booksellers are asking $30-$70 for it, but British booksellers are charging much more reasonable prices. I think I got my copy for around $8.00, trans-Atlantic shipping included.

The problem with purchasing very cheap trans-Atlantic shipping is that it takes a long time, which is why the book took two and a half months to reach me. Then it sat for several weeks before I bothered to read it, and by the time that happened, I had no recollection of why I'd bought the book in the first place.

That's usually not a problem. My taste in fiction is confined to a few genres, but they're broad genres, and even if it takes me years to crack a book after I buy it, a quick glance at the cover will tell me what I was originally hoping to get out of it. But torture porn is not one of my genres, and I have no idea why I purchased Tarantula. I'm carrying an apparently faulty memory of receiving the recommendation from, but extensive searching of this and other sites that I frequent has not provided any illumination.

So I read the book. It's quite short, but I read very slowly when I'm not enjoying it, and Tarantula was a real struggle. It must have taken me two weeks of reading quick snatches during my morning commute to get through the first half or so, and when I finally got into the story, I finished it at home in a single sitting. I was trashy and sophisticated, but really not what I'm into. I suppose I got my money's worth.

Anyway, the story follows three characters. The first is a renowned plastic surgeon named Lafargue who keeps his wife Eve locked in a room, regularly drugs and abuses her, and forces her to sell herself as a prostitute. Next is Alex, a small-time criminal who manages to rob a bank, but kills a police officer in the process and is now a wanted man. Finally, Vincent, a young man, is chained up in a basement somewhere. Vincent's story is a flashback which takes place before the main plot

Alex, hoping to flee the country and start a new life with his riches, sees Lafargue on TV and decides to hire the famous surgeon to give him a new face. He kidnaps Eve and stashes her somewhere in the hopes of ransoming her for the surgical procedure. Meanwhile, we learn that Vincent's captor has given him a sex-change over the course of several years. Lafargue agrees to perform the surgery, but instead drugs Alex, interrogates him, and learns where Eve is being held. He rescues Eve, who, used to being drugged and beaten, thinks that the whole affair is an elaborate trick being carried out by Lafargue.

The climax occurs when Lafarge and Eve confront Alex, who is chained to a chair in Lafargue's basement. Eve recognizes Alex as her former best friend, and we learn that a decade ago, Eve was Vincent. Alex and Vincent raped Lafargue's daughter and she went insane, so Lafargue had planned to take revenge on them, but never caught up to Alex. In the final moments of the book, Eve/Vincent has to decide where hir loyalties are.

None of this is handled delicately. Actually, it's uniquely ham-fisted, in that the Big Revelations are apparent long before Jonquet gives you the tools to figure out how he'll get there. When he finally does give you those tools, they turn out to be the kind of wild, one-in-a-million coincidences that only work in screwball comedy. Come to think of it, that might explain the reviews on the back of the book. As I said, it's the British edition, but every quote is from an American publication. Maybe they had to fish in a much larger pond of reviewers just to get four or five positive reviews.

Still, I'll probably see the movie when it becomes available.
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