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Petite Mort

3.52  ·  Rating Details ·  387 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
Mesdames et Messieurs, presenting La Petite Mort, or, A Little Death... A silent film, destroyed in a fire in 1913 at the Pathé studio, before it was seen even by its director. A lowly seamstress, who makes the costumes she should be wearing, but believes her talent - and the secret she keeps too - will soon get her a dressing room of her own. A beautiful house in Paris, w ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 2013 by Serpent's Tail
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Ian "Marvin" Graye
A Novel Salvaged from the Archives of the Cinema Gaumont Pathétique

I recommend this novel to anybody who shares my interest in Paris, film, photography, letters, screenplays, concubines, sisters, doppelgänger, lesbianism, ménages à trois, petites morts, imposture, revenge, theft, murder, suicide, detection, justice, well-constructed plots, economical prose, short chapters, pattern recognition, post-modernism, memento mori and sub-Proustian narrative.
Adèle Roux is a girl from a small French town who becomes captivated by a silent movie, starring the beautiful Terpsichore, and sets her heart on becoming a star of the silver screen. It's 1913, and she sets off for Paris to make her name and her fortune: but things don't go quite to plan, and instead of succeeding at her first audition, she's packed off to work in the costume department. An escape is offered by handsome producer André Durand, but rather than making her a star (as Adèle hopes), ...more
Katie Ward
Mar 06, 2013 Katie Ward rated it it was amazing
I’ve recently learned that there’s a single sentence which, when used, compels me to read a book better than any other sales pitch, incantation or bribe ever could: ‘This plot has a twist we beg you not to disclose . . .’ Hello? I thought.

No spoilers here, I assure you. Beatrice Hitchman’s secret is safe with me.

Petite Mort is set in the silent film industry of early twentieth century Paris, and is told from the point of view of Adèle, an aspiring actress. She escapes her drear and parochial vi
Maya Panika
Dec 06, 2013 Maya Panika rated it really liked it
The intriguing blurb that sold me this novel urges the reader not to spoil, so I shan’t. Suffice to say that this is an exquisitely readable, engaging, surprisingly compelling novel, set in Paris 1913, where Adèle is desperately trying to break into the movies by means of sleeping with an important and influential producer at the Pathé studios. Ostensibly about Petite Mort, a silent film with a veneer of great mystique because it was destroyed in a fire before it was ever seen, he story ...more
Alexis Hall
I feel like I should have liked this more than I did… I mean, I did enjoy it, I romped through it on a bus journey to London, but it hasn’t particularly stayed with me.

Also apparently we’re not meant to give spoilers, so I won’t – except it’s kind of blatantly obvious what’s going on, because it’s the only possible thing that could be going on. And while I wasn’t disappointed to learn that the only thing that could be going on was, in fact, going on – I think expecting the reader to have their t
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
From BBC Radio 4 - 15 Minute Drama:

Honor Blackman, Shelley Conn, Mariah Gale and Samantha Spiro star in Beatrice Hitchman's thrilling debut, adapted by Miranda Davies. A 1914 silent film called Petite Mort holds the key to an infamous murder trial.
Nov 25, 2014 Cailin rated it it was amazing
This was such a gorgeous book to read. It was rich with plot, descriptive, mysterious and beautiful woven.
Laura Greenwood
May 14, 2013 Laura Greenwood rated it really liked it
Review originally posted on: http://a-reader-lives-a-thousand-live...

The novel follows the story of Adèle Roux, a young French girl who goes to Paris hoping to become an actress in the age of silent film. She gets involved with the Durands, André a special effects guru and inventor working for Pathé, and Luce, a famous actress. La Petite Mort is a film that contains a never before seen effect (that is actually never really explained) and a part which Adèle is offered and plays. In 1967 the missi
Delicious & Fictitious
Sep 02, 2013 Delicious & Fictitious rated it really liked it
With an unusual and intricately woven plot, Petite Mort is an intriguing glimpse into Paris in 1913. I was a little hesitant about it initially, but Beatrice Hitchman’s beautiful prose, both engaging and evocative, and her vivid narrative soon thrust me into the world of Pathé cinema and kept my attention from beginning to end.

The summary of the novel includes a fantastic hook that’s guaranteed to reel in many readers: “As you will see, this plot has a twist we beg you not to disclose,” it plead
Apr 13, 2013 Emily rated it it was amazing
Adèle Roux is a 17-year-old aspiring silent film actress who runs away from her provincial town in the south of France to Paris, with dreams of taking up at Pathé and emulating the beguiling Terpsichore. Unfortunately for Adèle, such high aspirations aren't as easy to achieve as she'd hoped, and instead of walking into a starring role she finds herself embarking on an affair with Terpsichore's film inventor husband to advance her fledgling film career.
Installed as a concubine and personal assis
Meg Jayanth
Apr 28, 2013 Meg Jayanth rated it really liked it
Lovely, deftly written story set in the silent film industry of 1910-20s Paris. Adele is a great protagonist: alternately venal and sympathetic, terrible and lovely. Interspersed with surprising forays into backstories that lend the book a fuller, more sumptuous feel. Hitchman does some smart things with alternating perspectives, allowing readers to experience particular scenes or moments from differently illuminating angles without losing the fundamental sense of human complexity, of ...more
Sep 28, 2014 Stephanie rated it really liked it
I don't know why this book isn't more widely known. Waterstones promoted it and Radio 4 dramatised it, yet it's hardly got a mention on Goodreads. I found it an enjoyable, quick read. The plot twist,is obvious - there are enough clues- if you stop and think. This didn't spoil the enjoyment for me. It's stylishly written and I didn't pick up any anachronisms, which I find irritating in period pieces.
Jay Kulpa
Nov 04, 2015 Jay Kulpa rated it it was amazing
Picked up on a whim after reading the cover and so glad I did. Hitchman writes beautifully, and evocatively. Her work is luxurious yet lean, opulence never overdone. Her style alone would make this a page turner, but so does a tantalizing and expertly constructed plot.

This book is a true pleasure to experience. I eagerly look forward to more.
Jul 24, 2014 Carra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, glbt
Passion! Betrayal! Forbidden love! Murder! Mystery!
What more could you ask for? Well, perhaps an unexpected twist. Oh wait...
I cannot recommend this book high enough. What a debut, Ms Hitchman! I for one look forward to follow your future work.
Renita D'Silva
Jan 20, 2015 Renita D'Silva rated it it was amazing
Wow! A fiendishly original, completely captivating page turner of a book. Loved, loved loved.
Oct 26, 2016 Katerina rated it really liked it
Usually Plot Twists are fairly obvious, even the good ones. But this one had me re-reading the book in search of the very carefully hidden clues that would piece the story together. Even without the plot twist, the narrative pulls you in and you can't help but feel for each character. A great read, just go slowly and keep your eyes open.
Nov 26, 2016 Tara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
A really enjoyable and gripping read. It had me pulled in during the first few chapters, and I struggled to put it down. The plot was richly set, and it was well written, evoking a vivid picture of the era of silent film and the glamour that went along with it. There was never a dull moment, and it is a great ending.

Highly recommended.
Oct 03, 2016 Melissa rated it liked it
Sergiu Pobereznic
Jun 10, 2015 Sergiu Pobereznic rated it it was amazing
The story is set in Paris around the early 1900 silent film industry era and travels all the way to the 1960s. The protagonist is Adele and she is a country girl who travels to Paris in search of movie star fame after seeing a movie. But, as with all plans, it doesn't quite shape up as she had imagined. I'll stop there.
In the plotting there is mystery, murder, a fire, a missing section of film reel (that turns up many decades later), forbidden/obsessive love and much more.
I will say this: Beat
Aug 09, 2016 Kat rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
This was absolutely amazing and once I got caught up in it, I couldn't put it down.
It sets the scene so wonderfully, so intricately. The details and descriptions are rich, the language enthralling, the plot and the characters mesmerising. You are drawn into 1913/1967 France as well as late 19th Century Southern America, with ease. Nothing about the world felt forced, or like it was trying too hard to create the scene. It was very well done.

The characters were intriguingly rich. I'm not sure I r
Patrick Neylan
Feb 09, 2015 Patrick Neylan rated it really liked it
Recommended to Patrick by: Amazon Vine
Shelves: fiction, gay, modern, mystery, owned
This is a delightful if not perfect debut, drawing on the magic of early cinema and a mysteriously lost film. It flips from the early 1900s to the 1960s as a journalist tracks down the star of the newly discovered film and looks for the missing scene.

We're taken back to Adèle Roux, a star-struck country girl who travels to Paris to get into the movies. She fails, of course, and ends up as the personal secretary to the studio's former star, Luce, and her manipulative husband, the cinematic entre
Rachel Stevenson
Jun 10, 2015 Rachel Stevenson rated it really liked it
This book reminded me of Sunnyside by Glen David Gold, a novel about the early days of Hollywood, focussing on Charlie Chaplin (and the dog Rin Tin Tin). However, Petite Mort is set in Paris, before the first world war meant that the film industry moved to America, and the only real-life people who become characters are Charles Pathé and Edison, who both have walk-on parts. Adele, a girl from the Midi, comes to Paris to seek her fortune in the film industry but instead becomes the assistant to a ...more
Heather Putman
Dec 06, 2015 Heather Putman rated it it was amazing
When a book's quoted praise describes it as "Moulin Rouge meets Alfred Hitchcock," I know I've found the book for me. What Atmosphere!: from once-grande-dame plantations of the South, to the exciting streets of pre-war Paris, this novel brings its reader to times and places with such convincing elegance as I've rarely enjoyed. The structure of the novel mimics a film script - a choice that only elevates the author's appreciation for silent film, which she so lovingly expresses through much of ...more
Michael Brown
There was enticing blurb. It was about the early days of French cinema and the creation of illusions. Jump-cutting between the 1910s and the 1960s, it promised a frisson worthy of Hitchcock and a staggering twist at the end of it all.

Except it wasn't that staggering. I had the bones of it unearthed very early on, so when it finally grew its flesh I did not gape in wonderment, I merely thought "Mmmm, yeah". I'd be surprised if anyone who has any constant acquaintance with the mystery genre found
May 31, 2016 Mersini rated it really liked it
I had no idea what to expect of this novel. All I knew was that I kept seeing it on bookstore shelves and that it looked interesting; a book about the early days of cinema, about a lost film and the collision of the two very different worlds of two women - what doesn't sound interesting about that?

It took me completely by surprise - and I'm not just talking about the twist at the end. From the outset, the story drags you in and keeps you captive. It's a wonderful ride.

I'm not going to say much,
As far as books about early cinema go, this one is pretty good, but has very little to say about early French cinema. It's the whole reason I picked it up, but Hitchman defied my expectations and the summary.

Adele goes to Paris, hoping to make a name for herself at the Pathétique studio. She gets involved with an important man there, and after Adele's sister moves to Paris, she moves out of their flat and in with Andre... and his wife.

From there, a complicated shifting of certain affections re
For Books' Sake
Apr 14, 2013 For Books' Sake rated it really liked it
"Petite Mort is the unputdownable début novel by writer and filmaker Beatrice Hitchman.

In a wonderfully evocative opening, we meet protagonist Adèle Roux. Watching a silent film for the first time in 1913, she determines that her future lies on the silver screen.

She makes the journey to Paris, where she presents herself at the Pathé factory that she believes holds the key to reaching those dreams." (Excerpt from full review at For Books' Sake.)
Apr 13, 2013 Colin rated it it was amazing
One of those books I probably wouldn't have picked up in the normal run of things but I met the author at a family funeral last year and thought I'd have a look. I'm glad I did! The story is one of those that takes place in a very rarefied world and centres on a mystery which - when the reader is let in on it - unlocks the apparent inconsistencies and questions from earlier. It put me in mind of Citizen Kane and the novels of Robertson Davies. Anyway, no spoilers, so *locks lips, throws away ...more
here is a good review by blair

here's not so good, set in pre-wwi paris, in the world of movie making. poor girl goes to paris to make it big in the movies, but ends up concubine to big time producer, then passed off to his wife, madness ensues. great strong characters and settings, hardly a bobble in well written/researched debut novel. not sure what it means, but cover has blub "as heard on bbc radio 4" , was it an audio play too?
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