Sometimes you run into an author who gets tons of critical acclaim, but you
personally cannot stand the way they write. So is the case with me and Diane
Johnson. From her National Book Award-nominated Le Divorce to her newest effort, L’Affaire, I find myself seriously underwhelmed and almost bored to tears by her books.
L’Affaire is the story of Amy Hawkins, a single young American who has recently sold her company for an enormous profit. Unsure of how to proceed now that she’s rich and doesn’t have to work any longer, Amy goes on a ski trip to the French Alps. While there, she meets people from all over the world, all of whom seem to have contempt for the American way of life. The situation worsens when an avalanche occurs (rumored to have been triggered by an American plane), killing some of the skiers and leaving two in comas.
Adrian and Kerry Venn, the two unfortunate skiers who lie in coma after the avalanche, are a rich couple from England. Adrian is older and has children from previous relationships (some of whom are illegitimate), while Kerry is young and has only her son and younger brother, Kip, as family. Adrian’s family comes out of the woodwork to visit him in France -- and try to collect inheritance. The members of Adrian’s family, each with different motivations, uneasily get to know each other as Amy lends her help to the scared and alone Kip. When Amy helps pay for Adrian’s transfer to England and he dies en route, she’s in for the fight of her life.
Although the concept of the novel sounds interesting, Johnson has a way of making it tedious, boring and incredibly dull. As opposed to providing the reader with action and character development, she chooses instead to give page after page of social commentary that is neither interesting nor entertaining. Add to that selfish and shallow characters and a wholly disappointing ending, and you’ve got one novel that really has very little going for it. I must be missing what the critics see in Johnson’s writing but, after trying two of her novels, I doubt I will try to see their point of view by trying another of her books.