by Leila Slimani

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"Fascinating . . . Adèle has glanced at the covenant of modern womanhood--the idea that you can have it all or should at least die trying--and detonated it." --The New York Times Book Review

"[A] fierce, uncanny thunderbolt of a book." --Entertainment Weekly

From the bestselling author of The Perfect Nanny--one of the 10 Best Books of the Year of The New York Times Book Review--her prizewinning novel about a sex-addicted woman in Paris

She wants only one thing: to be wanted.

Adèle appears to have the perfect life: She is a successful journalist in Paris who lives in a beautiful apartment with her surgeon husband and their young son. But underneath the surface, she is bored--and consumed by an insatiable need for sex.

Driven less by pleasure than compulsion, Adèle organizes her day around her extramarital affairs, arriving late to work and lying to her husband about where she's been, until she becomes ensnared in a trap of her own making. Suspenseful, erotic, and electrically charged, Adèle is a captivating exploration of addiction, sexuality, and one woman's quest to feel alive.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525503903
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/15/2019
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 94,162
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Leila Slimani is the bestselling author of The Perfect Nanny, one of The New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of the Year, for which she became the first Moroccan woman to win France's most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt. She won the La Mamounia Prize for Adèle. A journalist and frequent commentator on women's and human rights, she is French president Emmanuel Macron's personal representative for the promotion of the French language and culture and was ranked #2 on Vanity Fair France's annual list of The Fifty Most Influential French People in the World. Born in Rabat, Morocco, in 1981, she now lives in Paris with her French husband and their two young children.

Read an Excerpt

Adèle has been good. She has held out for a week now. She hasn’t given in. She has run twenty miles in the past four days. From Pigalle to the Champs-Elysées, from the Musée d’Orsay to Bercy. In the mornings, she has gone running on the deserted banks of the Seine. At night, on the Boulevard Rochechouart and the Place de Clichy. She hasn’t touched a drop of alcohol and she has gone to bed early.
But tonight she dreamed about it and she couldn’t fall back asleep. A torrid dream that went on forever, that entered her like a breath of hot wind. Now Adèle can think of nothing else. She gets up and drinks a strong black coffee. The house is silent. In the kitchen she hops about restlessly. She smokes a cigarette. Standing in the shower, she wants to scratch herself, to rip her body in two. She bangs her forehead against the wall. She wants someone to grab her and smash her skull into the glass door. As soon as she shuts her eyes she hears the noises: sighs, screams, blows. A naked man panting, a woman coming. She wishes she were just an object in the midst of a horde. She wants to be devoured, sucked, swallowed whole. She wants fingers pinching her breasts, teeth digging into her belly. She wants to be a doll in an ogre’s garden.
She doesn’t wake anyone. She gets dressed in the dark and does not say goodbye. She is too nervous to smile or have a conversation. Adèle leaves the house and walks the empty streets. Head down and nauseous, she descends the stairs of the Jules-Joffrin metro station. On the platform a mouse runs across her boot and startles her. In the carriage, Adèle looks around. A man in a cheap suit is watching her. He has badly shined shoes with pointed tips. He’s ugly. He might do. So might that student with his arm around his girlfriend, kissing her neck. Or that middle-aged man standing by the window who reads his book and doesn’t even glance at her.
She picks up a day-old newspaper from the seat opposite. She turns the pages. The headlines blur, she can’t concentrate. Exasperated, she puts it down. She can’t stay here. Her heart is banging hard in her chest, she’s suffocating. She loosens her scarf, unwinds it from around her sweat-soaked neck and drops it in an empty seat. She stands up, unbuttons her coat. Holding onto the door handle, her legs shaken by tremors, she is ready to jump.
She’s forgotten her telephone. She sits down again and empties her handbag, A powder compact falls to the floor. She tugs at a bra strap entwined with earbuds. Seeing the bra, she tells herself she needs to be more careful. She can’t have forgotten her phone. If she has, she’ll have to go back to the house, come up with an excuse. But no, here it is. It was there all the time, she just didn’t see it. She tidies her handbag. She has the feeling that everyone is staring at her. That the whole carriage is sneering at her panic, her burning cheeks. She opens the little flip phone and laughs when she sees the first name.
It’s no use anyway.
Wanting to is the same as giving in. The dam has been breached. What good would it do to hold back now? Life wouldn’t be any better. She’s thinking like a drug addict, like a gambler. She was so pleased with herself for not having yielded to temptation for a few days that she forgot about the danger. She gets to her feet, lifts the sticky latch, the door opens.
Madeleine station.
She pushes her way through the crowd that swells like a wave around the carriage and gushes inside. Adèle looks for the exit. Boulevard des Capucines. She starts to run. Let him be there, let him be there. Outside the storefront windows she hesitates. She could catch the Métro here: Line 9 would take her directly to the office, she’d be there in time for the editorial meeting. She paces around the Métro entrance, lights a cigarette. She presses her handbag to her body. Some Romanian women in headscarves have spotted her. They advance toward her, holding out their stupid petition. Adèle rushes off. She enters Rue Lafayette in a trance, gets lost and has to retrace her steps. Rue Bleue. She types in the code and goes inside, runs upstairs to the second floor and knocks on the heavy wooden door.
‘Adèle…’ Adam smiles. His eyes are puffy with sleep and he’s naked.
‘Don’t speak.’ Adèle takes off her coat and throws herself at him. ‘Please.’
‘You could call, you know… It’s not even eight yet…’
Adèle is already naked. She scratches his neck, pulls his hair. He doesn’t care. He’s hard. He shoves her violently, slaps her face. She grabs his dick and pushes it inside her. Up against the wall, she feels him enter and her anxieties dissolve. Her sensations return. Her soul is lighter, her head an empty space. She grips Adam’s arse and drives him into her angrily, ever faster. She is possessed, in a fever, desperately trying to reach another place. ‘Harder, harder,’ she screams.
She knows this body and that annoys her. It’s too simple, too mechanical. Her surprise arrival did not transform Adam. Their lovemaking is not obscene enough or tender enough. She puts Adam’s hands on her breasts, tries to forget that it’s him. She closes her eyes and imagines that he’s forcing her.
Already he is somewhere else. His jaw tenses. He turns her around. As always, he pushes Adèle’s head down toward the floor with his right hand and grabs her hip with his left. He thrusts hard, he groans, he comes.
Adam tends to get carried away.
Adèle gets dressed with her back to him. She’s embarrassed at him seeing her naked.
‘I’m late for work. I’ll call you.’
‘As you like,’ replies Adam.
He smokes a cigarette, leaning against the kitchen door. With one hand, he touches the condom hanging from the end of his penis. Adèle looks away.
‘I can’t find my scarf. Have you seen it? It’s grey cashmere. I’m really fond of it.’
‘I’ll look for it. I can give it to you next time.’

Reading Group Guide

“She wishes she were just an object in the midst of a horde. She wants to be devoured, sucked, swallowed whole. . . . She wants to be a doll in an ogre’s garden.” (p. 2)

Adèle Robinson is a beautiful and wealthy woman with a loving husband and son, a luxurious Parisian apartment, a loyal best friend, and an enviable career as a journalist that allows her to travel often. But Adèle isn’t sure she wants any of these things. Her career bores her; her friendship is based on convenience more than true affection; her house sometimes feels like a prison; and she has complicated feelings about her husband and son, often wondering whether they even need her at all. More than anything, Adèle is addicted to sex, preferably with strangers—an addiction that’s destroying her life.

When we first meet Adèle, she’s about to give in after having remained faithful to her husband, Richard, for a whole week. Leaving Richard and their four-year-old son Lucien sleeping peacefully, she visits the apartment of one of her lovers before showing up to work an hour late. In order to keep her extramarital dalliances secret, she has to lie to her husband, boss, coworkers, family, and friends, inventing work meetings and childcare emergencies to account for the time she spends with men who aren’t her husband. What’s perhaps most strange of all is that her affairs are purely compulsive, devoid of any pleasure or joy.

Richard, who for much of the novel is blissfully unaware of Adèle’s other life, wants them to have another child and move to the country. Adèle doesn’t refuse, nor does she exactly accept; with characteristic ambivalence, she says nothing or changes the subject whenever he brings up the future. She loves her son, but parenthood is also a convenient way for her to “protect herself from other people. As a wife and mother, she is haloed with a respectability that no one can take away from her. She has built herself a refuge for her nights of anguish and a comfortable retreat for her days of debauchery” (p. 29). The tension between her two lives, and her inability to fully choose one or the other, leads her to fight with her only friend, Lauren, a photographer who has grown tired of acting as Adèle’s alibi whenever Richard comes looking for her.

When Adèle begins an affair with a coworker of Richard’s, Richard finally finds out that his wife has been hiding her terrible compulsion from him for years. Furious and hurt, he moves the family to the countryside and tightens his control over Adèle, sending her to a psychologist and monitoring her every move. But will his efforts be enough to keep their marriage intact, despite her betrayal? And will Adèle ever regain control of her own existence?

1. On page 121, Slimani writes of Adèle, “She understood that desire was unimportant.” What do you think this means? Why does Adèle feel so compelled to have sex with different men?

2. Did your opinion of Adèle change when you learned more about her relationship with her mother?

3. Every so often, it seems that Adèle is going to turn over a new leaf. For example, on page 48, Slimani writes, “She is going to clean up her life. One by one, she is going to jettison her anxieties. She is going to do her duty.” Do you think she really wants to get better? Do you think she ever will?

4. Was Richard right to try to create a sense of routine and security for Adèle toward the end of the novel? What would you have done in his place?

5. How did you interpret the novel’s ending? Do you think Adèle will come back?

6. Did you feel sympathy for Adèle? What about for Richard?

7. Slimani has said that this novel was loosely based on the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a French politician and former managing director of the International Monetary Fund who said that he was suffering from sex addiction after being charged with sexual assault in 2011. What do you think of Slimani’s decision to make the main character a woman?

8. Slimani’s first novel, The Perfect Nanny, was about a seemingly flawless nanny who ended up killing her two young charges. If you read The Perfect Nanny, did you notice any similarities between the two novels?

Customer Reviews

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Adèle 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Candice_S More than 1 year ago
Another fascinating and remarkable character drama from Leila Slimani. I absolutely LOVED this read - quick, engrossing, and deeply intriguing, this is won't be a book for everyone, but certainly landed on my favorite reads of the month pile. I love that Leila does not shy away or pull any punches as she dives into the complexity of a woman suffering from a secret and devastating sex addiction, and how that impacts her life, her marriage and her ability to mother her only child. The fact that Leila writes Adele as a deeply sympathetic character speaks to her unparalleled ability as an author - this is not a character that should be easy to like, and yet as a reader I was pulling for her every step of the way. Similar to The Perfect Nanny, this book doesn't offer much for conclusion and refuses to wrap up the story in a neat bow. Which is perfect and so true to what this story is supposed to be. A must read in my opinion! Give this one a try!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
3900980 More than 1 year ago
Adele: A Novel is the story of a woman who seems to have it all. She is a working journalist, she's married to a doctor, she has a son and she has more money than she needs. But Adele is not happy. She has a problem. A big problem. A problem which could tear the life she has built apart. Adele loves sex, but not so much with her husband. Adele is obsessed with extra marital sex and affairs. All unbeknownst to her husband. But as you continue to read you start to wonder if it is really about the sex or are there underlying issues which like an addiction, makes her crave with need, but afterwards feel guilty and dead. The story follows her journey as she begins to feel tremendous guilt for what she has been doing, yet unable to stop herself begins to make mistakes...perhaps unconsciously? in the hopes of getting caught? One wonders. The book is both sexually charged and extremely sad as your heart races and you feel Adele's confusion and guilt and anxiety. There is a bit of embarrassment as you, the reader, are a fly on the wall and can almost feel and see the choices and sometimes mistake she makes. Leila Slimani is also the author of The Perfect Nanny which was a New York Times Bestseller in 2018.
booklover- More than 1 year ago
Adele seems to have a great life. She is married to a surgeon; they have a healthy young son. She's a successful journalist. She has everything she ever wanted. But she's grown bored with her job and distant from her husband. She loves her son, but hates that he is keeping her tied to a life she no longer wants. She seems to spiral out of control .. what she wants, what she needs is to have intimate relationships. She lies to her husband, she lies to her boss, she lies to her friends about where she goes .. and with whom. Her days are filled with thoughts of other men and what they will do and where they will go. But eventually, that's not enough either. This is a dark, depressing look at one woman's attempt to feel that she is worthy and the addictive nature of those attempts. Warning: Very explicit language and intimate moments. If you are a fan of erotica, you will most likely really like this book. I am not a fan, as most of the book was way too descriptive without a lot of substance. I didn't particularly like Adele or her husband. She seems to be on a different planet while he plods along and plans their life according to what he wants. Many thanks to the author / Penguin Group / Netgalley for the digital copy of ADELE. Opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.