Gilles’ Wife

large_fB2seAXewxUMEkBGrryh89SCVB8 Based on a short novel by French writer Madeleine Bourdouxhe, La Femme de Gilles, written in 1937, was made into a movie in 2005.  After watching this haunting tale of infidelity and patience, I’ve preordered the book – translated to English and available in November.  I need to read the lines carefully; I want to know what the author really intended.

The French movie has little dialogue, with subtitles in English, but the facial expressions carry the mood and the action.  The love triangle consists of Elisa, the steady and faithful wife who is pregnant with her third child when the story begins; Gilles, the hard-working husband who expects his dinner on the table when he returns from a day at the mines; and finally, Victorine, the young flighty and beautiful sister.

When Elisa discovers her husband is sleeping with her sister, she becomes his confidant and nurturer, even spying on her sister for him, as he struggles with his passion.  With stoic patience Elisa listens to his ranting about his obsession with her sister, while Elisa is folding diapers and cooking his meal. When she seeks help in the confessional, the priest has nothing to offer but a warning to stay true to her faith, and her sister blames Elisa for not holding on to her husband.  Throughout, Gilles plods along in his fervor – more like a little boy than a man.

The movie’s ending is a surprise, and I wondered if the director had changed it for effect or if the book was the same.  I wondered why Elisa tolerates the situation – love for her husband? lack of any other resources to feed her children?  shame? Clearly, more bubbles under the surface of her Madonna-like veneer.

Film critic Roger Ebert noted:

“I was fascinated by the face of Emmanuelle Devos {Elisa}, and her face is specifically why I recommend the movie. There are some people who keep their thoughts to themselves because they don’t have one to spare. Others who are filled with thoughts, but keep them as companions. Devos, as Gilles’ wife, is in the second category. She is too clever by half. What such people don’t realize is that being too clever by half is only being too clever by half enough.”

Have you seen the movie?  read the book? I would appreciate your thoughts on it, if you have.

The Last Secret

Not an uplifting story but certainly suspenseful, Morris stays true to her dissection of ordinary people struggling through life (reference her Oprah pick, later a TV movie – Songs in Ordinary Time). In  The Last Secret, Morris showcases mistakes made in youth that follow into adult lives with an unintentioned ripple effect, unescapably touching others’  lives.

Mary McGarry Morris creates an absorbing story about the superficial lives people create to hide not only their feelings and real selves but also to compensate for their own inadequacies.   Nora, as the main character with a perfect life and family, unravels as her husband’s infidelity with the best friend predictably changes relationships and the children’s equilibrium.

The family-run newspaper business is the folcrum of all family negotiations. The horror of news seeps in, as 9/11 happens, then the war, even news of young friends being killed.   Morris implies that the personal horror and wars within the characters supercede all this. Their concern is false; their attention is for themselves.

As the villain, Eddie gains power and access through Nora’s insecurities. He becomes the foil for the incipient best friend/lover Robin, and finally morphs into an obsessed lunatic. Yet, without Nora’s self-doubt and guilt, the villain would have no hold.

Morris ends her story with a sardonic observation – the truth may be what you believe it to be, and,of course, secrets never stay secret.