‘Pétronille’ by Amélie Nothomb – A Friend to Drink Champagne With

‘Pétronille’ by Amélie Nothomb   (2014) – 122 pages

Translated from the French by Alison Anderson


9781609452902_13Since she started publishing her novels in 1993, Amélie Nothomb has produced a 100-to-200-page novel a year for a grand total of 23 novels.  That seems to me an entirely sensible way to sustain a literary career.

Her latest, ‘Pétronille’, I found to be a sparkling delight.

 “I need a drinking companion,” I thought.  I went through the list of people I knew in Paris, for I had only recently moved there.  My few connections included either people who were extremely nice, but did not drink champagne, or real champagne drinkers who did not appeal to me in the least.”  

Our narrator here is an author named Amélie who bears a strong resemblance to our author.  At one of her book signings she meets a young woman named Pétronille Fanto who is an aspiring writer, and they go out for champagne.

‘Pétronille’ is a novel which is more about becoming friends than about drinking champagne.   Each of us hits it off or doesn’t hit it off with the individual people we meet, and for most of us there are only a few special people to whom we are willing or able to become particularly close.  Much of ‘Pétronille’ consists of the sharp repartee between Pétronille and Amélie.  You begin to understand why these two are ideal drinking companions for each other.

I suspect what is going on here is that our author has set out to write and has succeeded in writing a novel that effervesces like high-quality champagne.  There is a mischievous merriment to the scenes.  ‘Pétronille’ is not a serious novel.

Amélie Nothomb is at the top of her form in this lighter-than-air novel.  If you have not read Nothomb before, ‘Pétronille’ is a good place to start.  The writing is assured and pleasant to read and contains some insights into friendship.  I put ‘Pétronille’ up there as one of her best novels along with ‘Loving Sabotage’ and ‘Fear and Trembling’.


Grade: A-         


4 responses to this post.

  1. I didn’t know about Pétronille before reading your review! And it does sound like a really awesome book!

    I love how Nothomb writes. I want to cry and laugh at the same time. The Stranger Next Door and Fear and Trembling have probably been my favorites so far


    • Hi Anastasia,
      “I want to cry and laugh at the same time.” Your reaction seems to me to be a most appropriate reaction to Amelie Nothomb’s novels. I hear she is much more popular in France than in other places so far.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds fab. I’ve read a couple of her books but didn’t realise she wrote so prolifically until I read your review. I think I need to make more room for Nothomb in my life!


    • Hi kimbofo,
      You can pretty much rely on Amelia Nothomb to release a new novel each year. I’ve probably read at least six or seven over the years. I discovered her when the Complete Review gave ‘Fear and Trembling’ an A+ back in the mid-90s. That grade was unheard of for the Complete Review until then.

      Liked by 1 person

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