The Necessary Angel
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.