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Paperback review: Sila's Fortune, By Fabrice Humbert


Humbert's novel has won several awards in his native France, but in this cool assessment of the impact of corruption and finance on a group of disparate individuals he has set himself a huge challenge that doesn't quite come off.

Illegal immigrant Sila works in an upmarket Paris restaurant where she is assaulted by an American diner, Mark Ruffle, as he checks his unruly son. Ruffle's increasingly unhappy wife, Shoshana; maths scholar Simon and his handsome but less bright flatmate Matthieu; Russian oligarch Lev and his schoolteacher wife Elena, are all fellow diners who do nothing to help Sila, and Humbert wants to show that their inaction that day

has disastrous consequences for their lives. It's hard to see the link in all cases, and there's a dispassionate tone that checks our sympathy for mostly unattractive characters.