The Last Rendezvous

Written by Anne Plantagenet (trans. Willard Wood)
Review by Pamela Ortega

Although this novel of early 19th-century France may have been a prize-winner in its original French, it is a slow, hard slog in translation. It recreates the life of actual French poet and actress Marceline Desbordes and begins as the married Marceline tries to break out of the thrall in which she is enslaved by her lover, Henri Latouche. In alternating chapters, we learn of Marceline’s childhood with her notorious and adulterous mother and of the road that leads her, inevitably (we are led to believe) to her divided life as devoted wife and mother and affair with her uncaring and selfish lover, Latouche.

The real Marceline lived for a while in an exciting artistic Paris that included Latouche, Hugo, Baudelaire, and Balzac, but we see this only through the haze of her depression. There is little action and much too much reflection from Marceline. The flowery, almost purple prose also slows down the story and the reader. Some poems by Desbordes are included in English and French at the end of the novel. Recommended only for die-hard fans of this period of French history.