DAMAGE by Josephine Hart

DAMAGE, a novella by Josephine Hart is a chilling tale of obsession and of the unintended consequences of ungovernable love. Now made into a movie starring Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche, and directed by the late Louis Malle, I have to say that reading the novella didn’t add anything to the experience of seeing the movie. Which is unusual.


Perhaps it is because Louis Malle was such a great director. Or maybe it is because this tale is so chilling that it needed little enhancement.


What is interesting about this story is the way it is told. Using mostly narrative summary, Ms. Hart clinically delineates the disaster that befell the Fleming family when the son became engaged to a mysterious stranger, whom the father rapidly became infatuated with. Unable to control his passion, he met his son’s fiance at every possible opportunity for violent and kinky sex. Soon the press was on the trail, and Fleming, a cabinet minister experienced his life crumbling away.


I am not going to tell you what the ending is because I don’t want to destroy its power. Suffice it to say that I have rarely been so chilled. As for the way it was told, I myself am not a fan of narrative summary because it can easily weary the reader. But in this case, when we are talking about roiling emotions encased in an icy calm, it became a brilliant way of telling this story. The plot is so over-the-top that this clinical, detached, unemotional way of telling the story perfectly balanced it. Five stars.

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