(London, Bloomsbury, hb 1995, pb 1996)
‘I never meant to tell this story. Even now, twenty years after the event, I feel a cringe of shame. Mad love, they call it, amour fou, except mad became bad and that’s when our troubles began.’
The time is 1969: the days before seatbelts and responsibilities when ‘love’ meant sex on the back seat of a Renault Gordini and older men (especially French older men) brought a frisson of danger to adolescent lives.
Janey Wilcox, nineteen, a student in Bordeaux, meets Georges Delvaux at an all-night party that ends with sunrise over the ocean. The poet Rimbaud has sparked in her a sense of revolt. First love prompts her reinvention. From the instant they meet, she is drawn to Georges because he reminds her of Jean-Paul Belmondo in Jean-Luc Godard’s cinematic classic, Breathless (À bout de souffle). Dark secrets lie hidden in his past; her family will never approve. ‘He made me feel a stranger to myself. That can be comforting, you know.’
Jennifer Potter captures the taste and feel of emotional recklessness, that first surge of power in love. Her haunting new novel can be read as a thriller of the heart and savoured as a deliciously fine work of fiction.
‘After Breathless returns again and again to illusory, extraordinary happiness. Janey’s driven solipsistically for sexual experience and thrill, and her pleasure comes at Georges’ expense. Some of Potter’s best writing is in these raw, uncomfortable passages.’
‘This is a fantastic novel – sexy, romantic, risky and funny.’
‘An alluring film noir tinge of squalor and criminality echoes through the story: like those movies you remember with a pang, this is a novel to make you keep faith with how you used to feel.’