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Review of Paul by Daisy LaFarge

Set across various destinations in the South of France, Lafarge’s atmospheric prose makes reading this debut novel feel like a holiday. However, as you delve deeper, it darkens, and uncomfortable themes are revealed. 

The protagonist, Frances, is a recent graduate roaming France in the aftermath of a breakdown. She’s a character lost in the space between girlhood and adulthood and, at an eco-farm in Lazeaux, we meet the somewhat troubling character of Paul, an older man who inserts himself into this gap. 

Drawn in by his charm, Frances begins an awkward relationship with Paul that grows increasingly tense as disturbing details of his shady past are slowly revealed. We follow Frances as she submits to this relationship as an excuse to avoid her reality. But, empowered by wisdom from an older local woman, we see her begin to find herself and shed her naivete.

Paul is a subtle yet sharp and sophisticated novel exploring power and passivity, language and silence. Comparable to Nabokov’s Lolita in its claustrophobic road trips and uncomfortable relationships, this is a compelling debut novel that will mesmerise as much as it perturbs. 

Review by Abi.

Paul was published on 05/08/21 by Granta.

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