There are two interesting times in a romance: the beginning and the end. It’s the beginnings that everybody likes to read about. The endings don’t have such a wide readership, not being quite so much fun. However, the human race having its morbid streak, there have been quite a few stories written about the endings of romance as well. So when I start reading and realize that this is the topic of the story, my first reaction is, “All right. What have you got to say that’s new on this old topic? Surprise me.”
Which “La Belle Femme” proceeded to do in its own way.
This is the story of the breakup of an affair, told from inside the heads of the two participants. It starts at the point where the affair is over, but nobody has communicated that little fact to anyone else yet. Through the story, we watch the two of them negotiate through their own minds (not with each other; they barely communicate), each deciding exactly how to end the affair. It wouldn’t be fair to tell you what really happens. I think you should read the story to find out. You’ll like it.
However, the balance between action and thought in this almost-stream-of-conscious writing is far skewed away from the action. This is a great piece of introspection, but the absence of plot is a drawback. I won’t be spoiling anything by telling you that what happens is far less important than how it happens. In this case, the topic is what is happening inside the heads of the characters while a fairly normal play of daily action occurs on the surface. This short story reminds me of one of daVinci’s anatomical studies: accomplished in marvelous detail and a work of art in itself, but oh, so much better when combined with all the other elements that make a whole picture.
As such, this short story is more of a character sketch made in preparation for a novel. On her website, the author stated, “I needed to answer my own questions about how something racy and illicit eventually turns mundane and habitual.” I would enjoy it if Ms. Greaney, having satisfied her curiosity in this respect, would write us a story that matches the quality of the study.
Recommended for fans of thoughtful character sketches. Four stars out of Five