The Nec­es­sary An­gel

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - ON SCREEN - by C. K. Stead, Allen & Un­win.

Take a frolic through Paris from mid­sum­mer 2014 into early 2015 with the new novel by ac­claimed New Zealand writer C.K. Stead. Lead char­ac­ter Max Jack­son is a New Zealan­der liv­ing in the French cap­i­tal, who lec­tures at the Sor­bonne univer­sity. He is mar­ried to fel­low lit­er­ary aca­demic Louise, although they are liv­ing apart – she in their up­stairs apart­ment with their chil­dren and Max rel­e­gated to the ground floor with dog Skip­per. This un­cer­tainty about his mar­i­tal sta­tus leaves Max vul­ner­a­ble to the charms of French col­league Sylvie, and a young English stu­dent, He­len, who freely ad­mits she is “mad” (her san­ity de­pen­dent on the lithium pre­scribed for her bipo­lar dis­or­der) and is adept at mas­sag­ing the Kiwi prof’s ego. Both women are in ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ships and in­deed his own wife Louise is still very much part of Max’s life, so there are moral grap­plings about fidelity. Then there is the paint­ing – passed down through gen­er­a­tions of Louise’s fam­ily and be­lieved to be a Cézanne – which throws a wor­ri­some mys­tery into the ro­man­tic mix. Set against the rum­blings of a con­tem­po­rary, un­set­tled Europe it cul­mi­nates in a sat­is­fy­ing, sur­pris­ing twist.

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