Nimier's second novel to be published here (after The Giraffe, 1995) is as rich and tantalizing as its predecessor, exploring the coming of age of a precocious daughter of the bourgeoisie whose fascination for hypnotism takes her far from her cosseted beginnings.
Ten-year-old Cora finds the paperback Hypnotism Made Easy in the bathroom of a vacation house her family has rented and is so taken by it that she hides it to take home with her, coolly vowing to read it gradually as she passes through adolescence. The book's lessons, imperfectly learned, soon cause her to hypnotize a younger girl without being able to return her to consciousness. Years later, however, Cora successfully uses her secret knowledge to help a beloved uncle, newly disabled with a neurological disorder. Her tricks to aid recovery unexpectedly enable him to take up with his speech therapist, thereby thwarting Cora's own nascent desire for him. At 16, she comes close to seducing him, fails, and then goes off to a traveling hypnotist's performance, where she becomes part of the act onstage (and is later deflowered backstage). Thinking herself liberated at last, Cora leaves home gleefully to join her hero-hypnotist, but he uses her susceptibility for his own ends, scarring her physically and mentally, even experimenting with the alteration of her memories. When their hypnotism act returns to her hometown after more than a year on the road, Cora is kidnapped by family and friends and protected until she recoverswhereupon she begins new adventures as a phone-sex operator.
At once a sobering view of teenage wilfulness and a polished gem of a story sparkling with exuberance and insight. Nimier turns a young woman's life into a reading experience as rewarding as it is arresting.