Based On A True Story by Delphine De Vigan

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“If you don’t grasp the little grain of madness in someone , you cannot love them. If you don’t grasp their point of craziness, you miss out. Someone’s point of craziness is their source of charm.”

I loved Delphine De Vigan’s memoir, Nothing Holds Back The Night, in fact sometime this week I will post a review, though I read it at the end of 2013. It begs to be reviewed and I highly recommend it. In this fictional, maybe real (we just don’t know for sure if it’s a half truth or all fabrication, in a sense, aren’t our memories fabrication as we only see them from our perspective) Delphine meets L.  L embodies everything Delphine wishes to be, the sort of woman that has a grace, refinement, ease in social settings, someone that is pulled together in every sense of the meaning.  “I’d long ago accepted that I was not one of those impeccable, irreproachable women I’d dreamed of being. I always had something that escaped or stuck out or collapsed.”  I can relate, maybe too well to that windblown look, that messy imperfection, a lived in being- that’s what so many of us are. Try as you like, that sophistication or artifice even isn’t easy for all of us to master. The speed at which they bond is almost frightening, and Delphine is soon allowing L far too much importance in her life. L is free to chip away at Delphine’s weaknesses and fears, pushing her to create, to search her guts for a more genuine messy story- after all, that’s what readers want, an emotional autopsy, right?  But who is L really? Why is she becoming necessary?

Delphine is crashing, her depression is making her question her own success with her Memoir, the above mentioned Nothing Holds Back The Night. Maybe her success is all phony, maybe she is suspect and every truth in her memoir was a farce. Isn’t there shame in so exposing others and oneself? Isn’t it a cruelty? So much success and now what? Writer’s block! She begins to rely far too much on L and her stimulating, raw insight but maybe L is far more insidious than Delphine realizes. Seduced by her friend’s strength, she gives over parts of herself that leave her nothing but an empty husk. Why does no one else seem to know who L is either? Why does Delphine keep L all to herself, not caring to share her with others?

Delphine, the readers ask, is L a madness, a slip, a truth, a lie? We just don’t know, do we? There are pages of self-reflection and a lot of deflection when reality stings, when life is brutal. Is L an ideal only? A phantom? A living breathing human? For whatever reason, in this fictional/real novel- she is vital to Delphine’s existence. The writing is gorgeous, the interactions intense but at times I wanted to move along, there were moments it dragged. However, L’s penetration into all of Delphine’s insecurities is terrifying. People are often saying how gorgeous it is to be seen, claiming they long to be known and truly understood- but do they? Do they really? We all need to keep some pounds of our own flesh on reserve for ourselves alone. There should be private thoughts, shames, memories that are not meant to be aired out. Just how much should we disarm ourselves for a friend, or even a lover? Here, I’ve split myself in two, come along now and take all the guts I spill, putrid and healthy alike. Delphine is giving too much over to L. Why is that? Why is she making L into a sort of God? An open heart is a beautiful thing in love or friendship, but you can never, should never hand yourself over entirely to another soul.

Delphine is throwing herself before a train, but why? Just what is going on? What is she trying to tell the reader? This is a sinister yet also dishonest novel. We don’t know who to trust, what to believe- much like life I suppose. How much is fiction, how much is memoir? Is there a difference? Which begs the question, how much of our memories become  fiction as we poke at them? I am torn because I really liked this but there were times it was exhausting reading it. Which is similar to what I imagine mental breakdowns feel like. But is she having a breakdown? It seems 2017 is the year of trickery in fiction and literature. If you enjoy being messed about- this is for you. It’s an original and at the end I was dizzy, very confused and yet still curious.

Publication Date: May 9, 2017

Bloomsbury USA



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