Canongate, £7.99

This is Life, By Dan Rhodes

The butterfly effect of a pebble thrown in a Parisian square

When pretty art student, Aurélie Renard, lobs a small pebble into a busy Parisian square, she lands herself in all kinds of trouble. What started as a conceptual art project sets in motion a chain of events that will turn her life upside down. In a moment of pure cinema, the stone describes a cartoonish arc before hitting a baby smack on the cheek.

Comic writer, Dan Rhodes, has spent time before inside the head of a young Parisienne. His novel The Little White Car (written under the nom de plume "Danuta de Rhodes") told the story of Véronique, whose Fiat Uno was involved in the accident that killed Diana.

In this latest novel, he tones down his more surreal flights of fancy for a souffle-light farce poking fun at the Paris art world.

Shamed by her stone-throwing misadventure, Aurelie finds herself agreeing to babysit the injured infant for a week. Turning misfortune to advantage she decides to make baby Herbert the subject of her next creative venture. Coming to her aid is her best-friend Sylvie – a "Godard-era Chantal Goya" – and her art teacher, Professor Papavoine.

Meanwhile, across town, another artist is preparing for his Paris debut. The performance artist known as "Le Machine" has been wowing audiences with his show, "Life", in which he squats bollock-naked over variously shaped glassware while hooked up to colonic microphone.

Sharpening his critic's pen in readiness for his latest offering is Jean-Didier Delacroix, a snooty arts correspondent with a hidden agenda.

As this is Paris, there is plenty of romance in store, but Rhodes carries off the more improbable moments of his farcical plot with wit and joie de vivre. The laugh-out-loud cameo of Carla Bruni performing her latest ballad, "Mon petit président", is worth the price of the book alone.

Whether it's a novel about life imitating art or the other way around it's hard to say. But Rhodes, like "Le Machine" himself, has bottled something of its essence.

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