Taking it to Heart by Marie Desplechin

Click to follow

Not to be confused with Marie Darrieussecq, or actress turned novelist Sophie Marceau, Marie Desplechin is one of several young French writers with new books out this summer. Of the three, Desplechin is the most likely to find favour among British readers ­ her funny, unsentimental vignettes of Parisian life being a pretension-free zone.

Like her bestselling debut novel Sans Moi (the story of a single mother's friendship with her flaky babysitter), Desplechin's first short story collection is grounded in the everyday round of work, friendship and affairs of the heart. The stories' narrators aren't archetypal Parisiennes, but slightly frazzled arty types who hang out with their brothers' friends, work shifts, and watch too much television. Emotionally astute about their inner lives, they are humorous about their relationships, but never self-deprecating. The collection's romantic scenarios are several: from a painfully funny account of a mother's weekend away with a new boyfriend (she gets horribly sea-sick), to a conversation between two girlfriends during which one admits to sleeping with a man they both consider beyond the pale. The best entry in the collection is Desplechin's title story ­ a touching portrait of familial love, and the memories that unite two siblings and their ailing grandmother during a hot afternoon. EH