Ingrid Thobois



Novelist and traveller Ingrid Thobois was born in Rouen in 1980. Since 2000, she has taught French in Afghanistan, made several radio reports on Central Asia and Haiti, and taken part in development and election monitoring missions in Indonesia, Congo, Moldavia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Kazakhstan. She has written two novels, outstanding for their intensity and style, construction and psychological insight: Le roi d’Afghanistan ne nous a pas mariés (Prize for a First Novel 2007) and L’Ange anatomique (2008).


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Sollicciano Ingrid book


Norma-Jean is still glamorous in her fifties, but her life is a construction of secretive layers. There’s the mirror relationship with her husband – formerly her analyst – and the fascination with a former pupil she visits every Thursday at Sollicciano prison in Tuscany, nourishing an ever-more mysterious and astonishingly dramatic series of events.

Ingrid Thobois has mastered the fine art of psychological suspense in this remarkable novel about madness and the abysses of the unconscious, a cunning construction of twists and turns, repetitions and manipulations. With a cruel yet delightful sense of detail, she paints an unforgettable portrait of a woman fighting against her transference, against the treacherous illusions of love.

This cinematographic puzzle-novel recalls the films of Hitchcock and Mankiewicz.


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  1. Patricia Sommer says:

    The construction of the book appears random, which forces the reader to put the pieces of the puzzle together. It’s a story of love, violence, madness and friendship.
    We discover the personality of the three main characters bit by bit and through the eyes of the others. The chapters are sometimes written in the first person (but not always by the same person) and sometimes through the voice of the narrator. It keeps the reader constantly on his/her toes.
    I thought the writing was beautiful and insightful, sometimes some words rang so true that I found myself reading them again before continuing to read.
    Very promising author (born 1980), very world wise for one so young.

  2. Katia Leloutre says:

    A very beautiful, sensitive style indeed, and I found myself reading passages twice too. This is a novel where the style makes it all, although at times sophisticated. The story I feel is more incidental, almost too dramatic; yet it is an intriguing psychological journey – some have talked about a psychological thriller (Culture France 2′s Coup de Coeur), and there is undoubtedly a suspense dimension to the book, very well orchestrated. I could see it fit well into any literary publisher’s list.
    Two videos below on the genesis of Solliciano and how it all happened while travelling on a train, and Ingrid’s work with her editor:

  3. Viv griffiths says:

    I have a feeling I may be the lone voice of dissent here, but I’ve struggled a bit to get on with “Sollicciano”. For me, the novel started out really promisingly, and there is no doubt that parts of the narrative are very beautifully phrased. However, I’ve read as far as page 180 and am finding it hard to come up with a reason why I should make the effort to read the last 30 or so. I’m assuming the chopping and changing between narrative voice and different points in the chronology is meant to create suspense, but I’m finding the bluntness of the non sequiturs jars a bit too much with the skilfulness of the phrasing. Jo Nesbø uses an almost identical narrative construct in his crime thrillers, but in that context it is a way of ensuring the reader pieces together the clues as to ‘who done it’ alongside the investigating police detectives. In the case of Sollicciano, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be anticipating as we know fairly early on that Marco killed Flora, he did it because he was jealous and he never tried to evade arrest. We also learn that Norma is unstable, has a crush on Marco, wants to help him flee and tries to get her husband committed. I’m not now sure what I’m supposed to be hanging on to find out; the focus Marco’s grand projet (escape? suicide?), whether will Norma Jean facilitate him fulfilling his plan (of course she will), will Jean ever be anything other than a passive bystander? In my opinion, Patrick Modiano beautifully achieves suspense and confusion through variations in the narrative voice and chronology without a ’who done it’ end game; see for example “Rue des boutiques obscures” or “Dans le café de la jeunesse perdue”. Another good example might be Marie NDiaye, who manages it in “En famille” and “Mon Coeur à l’étroit”, though admittedly NDiaye also makes liberal use of magic realism at times too. But, these examples go to show that it is possible to create this kind of thiller-esque suspense in the absence of a ‘who done it’ and without apparently taking a cleaver to the narrative timeline, throwing the pieces up in the air and leaving them where they land.
    However, when all’s said and done, the above comments probably say more about my personal likes/dislikes and how I interacted with the novel on the basis of those, rather than any lack of skill on the part of Ingrid Thobois. I think “Sollicciano” could be a good choice for AOS as it has literary merit beyond any perceived shortcomings of narrative structure. It also deals with universal themes that will translate well into English, but the translator will have to be skilful enough to maintain the beauty and integrity of the source text phrasing, when rendering it into English, for the work in translation to be worthwhile, in my opinion.

  4. Nancy Pile says:

    I enjoyed reading most of this book. But although it intrigued me, towards the end I found I did not much care about the characters and the whole thing seemed unsatisfactory. I have watched the video of the author talking about the book. When she describes it as a mosaic, I wonder if that is why I felt let down by it. Although the prose is flowing I missed getting deeper or more rounded insight into the characters. In the end they did not feel real or matter to me. I would be unlikely to buy another book of hers because of that.


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