Paul by Daisy Lafarge
What do you do about a modern-day Gauguin, also named Paul, whose friends are middle aged enablers adept at talking in riddles or not revealing anything at all? Can our twenty-one-year-old hero, Frances, who’s already had problems with one middle aged gaslighter avoid problems with another one? One who thinks he’s adept at turning on the charm and chat but, frankly, is about as appealing as any other middle-aged creep. Frances is, at first, not particularly assertive, and has “a tendency to idealise others and swallow down feelings to please them”, as one character suggests. And, of course, men like Paul have “a gravitational pull” which attracts young women without them really understanding why. However, as Frances’ time with Paul increases, his feebly constructed persona begins to break down and reveal the monster within, “I’m a good man”, he constantly whines. Frances gradually surprises herself, as the magnetic poles of her personality suddenly switch and the hidden steeliness in her character comes to the fore. Set in France one summer, Daisy Lafarge turns the idyllic natural world into a slightly sinister open prison, whereas ugly modernity in the shape of roads, McDonalds or motorways, become the possible escape route from ‘Mr Natural’ Paul and his odd group of friends and acquaintances. Compelling, with a poetic prose style to die for, Daisy Lafarge’s dreamy, disturbing novel is one of this year’s must reads.
Paul – Daisy Lafarge – publ. Granta - £8.99