I feel like I’ve liked almost everything I’ve read lately, which is a great streak to be on. I’d never heard of this author, but according to the bio in the front of the book, he published over 200 novels and at one point was the best-selling author in the world, so I guess I live under a rock made of illiteracy. On the other hand, he retired from writing in the 70’s, so maybe I can be forgiven. Also, he published in French.

Anyway, this was an engrossing psychological novel written from the point of view of the husband in a couple who drives from Long Island to Maine to pick up their kids from summer camp over Labor Day. He’s deeply disaffected and ill-at-ease with a lot of the aspects of his life. The decisions he makes trigger destructive events, even as he hopes they will be grand and meaningful, and mend an emptiness in his existence. This is an intense exploration of modern alienation before such a thing was hip. I’m somehow reminded of the short stories of Raymond Carver.

Red Lights provided me with an interesting contrast from The Awakening which was a female-POV book, which also featured a protagonist who was tragically alienated from contemporary societal expectations and conventions. The novels were written ~50 years apart, and the writing styles are extremely different. If I was more ambitious, I would spend some time writing a term paper delving more deeply into this pair of novels. But I am not!

I know the book was translated from French, so this isn’t the original text, but I did want to quote one paragraph that I adored. The couple have just exchanged some meaningless dialogue about the temperature in the car and whether to put on a coat.

Why did they feel an obscure need to exchange remarks of this sort? Was it to reassure themselves? If so, what were they afraid of?


Bottom line: recommended