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The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles

by Katherine Pancol

The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol
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  • Published in USA  Dec 2013
    448 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Power Reviewer Cloggie Downunder

Funny, moving and highly entertaining
The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles is the first novel in the Joséphine series by French author, Katherine Pancol. When she discovers her unemployed husband Antoine (call me Tonio) is having an affair with his manicurist, Joséphine Cortès kicks him out of their Paris apartment and resolves to somehow manage, with two daughters, on her own. Her meagre salary at the CNRS as a 12th Century historian will need to be supplemented; luckily, her brother-in-law, Philippe Dupin offers her some translation work.

When Antoine and his mistress, Mylène desert Paris to run a crocodile farm in Kenya, Joséphine knows her daughters’ survival is dependent on her: 10-year-old Zoé can still be reassured, but 14-year-old Hortense is becoming a wilful handful. And the bank manager has a nasty surprise for Joséphine. Desperation and a sense of filial loyalty see her agreeing to a dubious deal with her glamorous (and manipulative) sister, Iris: Jo will write a novel set in 12th Century France; Iris will relish doing the publicity and taking the credit; she’ll funnel the fees to Jo.

Pancol’s plot is wholly credible; it has a few twists and turns to keep things interesting as some two years of Joséphine’s life are detailed against a backdrop of other family and neighbourhood dramas: an eviction, a secret Royal baby, a long-standing unrequited love, a black-sheep twin, repressed memories, internet dating, lovers, plenty of gossip, mistresses, revealing YouTube clips, fake designer bags, hungry crocodiles, failing marriages, and a longed-for heir.

Pancol gives the reader a diverse cast of characters, none perfect, all flawed, all very human, with their strengths and weaknesses, none wholly good or bad: a few are easy to despise; others draw the reader’s sympathy; insecure and reticent, Joséphine will, at first, frustrate, as we wait and hope for her to lose her naiveté and develop some backbone. And everyone has secrets they’re not telling.

This first book (of three so far) is translated from the original French by William Rodarmor and Helen Dickinson. Readers who enjoy this novel will be pleased to know that the second book, The Slow Waltz of Turtles is also available in English. Funny, moving and highly entertaining, this is a very enjoyable read.
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