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Le Divorce

2.86  ·  Rating Details ·  3,958 Ratings  ·  330 Reviews
Soon to be a major motion picture from Merchant Ivory productions starring Naomi Watts and Kate Hudson!Called "stylish...refreshing...genuinely wise" by The New York Times Book Review, Diane Johnson’s Le Divorce has delighted readers since its publication in 1997.

This delightful comedy of manners and morals, money, marriage, and murder follows smart, sexy, and impeccably d
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 1st 2003 by Plume (first published 1997)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jul 16, 2013 Fabian rated it really liked it
Oo la-la. Silly Americans in an even sillier Old World. France is still the place where you can pretend that you are better than everyone else on the planet! And here I thought Argentinians on vacay where a pain in the ass. Manners & style are evidently as relevant today as ever...
Stephanie Sun
One thing Le Divorce is definitely not: chick lit. There are abundant moments of spot-on satire and genuine poignance in this novel about American step-sisters Roxeanne and Isabel Walker adrift in Paris during the divorce of the former from her estranged French husband, Charles-Henri, who has himself fallen in love with a Yugoslavian woman. Le Divorce itself is set during the run-up to the Yugoslav civil wars of the 1990s, and a minor character is a local pundit actively engaged in criticizing F ...more
Ian "Marvin" Grayejoy
Feb 22, 2011 Ian "Marvin" Grayejoy rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviews, read-2011

I haven't seen the film of this book, and now I don't know whether I want to. It depends on what aspect of the novel it relates to best.
Diane Johnson is actually a serious writer, rather than a popular fiction or chick-lit author (as Stephanie points out in her review).

Off to a Good Start

The first half is pretty serious, setting up the characters, giving you a feel for Paris. In that sense, it's like a sophisticated travel guide.

Creeping Scepticism

But for much of the time, you have
Mary Anne
Nov 25, 2007 Mary Anne rated it really liked it
In Francine Prose's book called Reading Like a Writer, Diane Johnson was praised for her astute narrative powers. So I took note, put this book on my TBR list, and months later found it at the library. I admit that when I saw the two blond babes on the paperback cover, I was less inclined to read it. But I took the plunge, and wow, am I glad I did.
I am so impressed by the display of cultural assumptions and expectations, around a simple plot: Isabel Walker goes from college film student with no
Sep 03, 2007 Kim rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Francophiles
First, a confession--I only read about 150 pages of this book, the rest I heavily skimmed. If I could have given it two and a half stars, I would have. This book starts out promising, but it gets awfully muddled about halfway through. The author doesn't seem to know whether she wants to write a serious book--hence, all the literary epigraphs that begin each chapter--or a saucy one, given the shockingly smutty way in which she describes sex (and I say shocking only because it doesn't match the re ...more
Jul 27, 2007 Amy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I kept waiting for this book to go somewhere and when it finally did, the story just fell apart. The last third did not hold together well and seemed hastily tacked on in order to wrap up the novel. It's a quick read, but there are better ones out there.
Elisabeth M
May 10, 2008 Elisabeth M rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Elisabeth by: Carl
At first impression this book fascinated me, as the narrator's experience of Paris overlaps broadly with my own. It's the small details and the spark of recognition they ignite - for instance, there's nothing like listening to a French person speak your own (American) language with, to be sure, a French accent, but add to that the disorienting British filter that they picked up when they were learning English. (Which language *is* this?) Cheers to the author for making those essential trivialiti ...more
Feb 20, 2015 M rated it liked it
This felt like more of a cultural commentary rather than a novel. It was hard to like anyone in the story as they felt underdeveloped - the narrator kept breaking away to impart another cultural observation. The last 100 pages or so really dragged, and I really didn't care about the stupid painting! If I didn't love Paris, and the French, this book would've bored me to tears. So the three stars go to la France, and zero to the book.
Mar 01, 2008 Yulia added it
Shelves: repelled-by
I found the narrator's chattiness incredibly irritating, "chick lit meets travel writing" poorly disguised as a comedy of manners. Despite all its reminders to the reader of its literary ambitions, the effort does not succeed and comes off as pretentious and overly ambitious instead. Perhaps I'd think differently of this book were I 16 and not 26, but as it is, I dared to open its pages after social and literary maturity struck.
Mar 14, 2007 Sarah rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one.
Le Dissapointment
Jan 05, 2011 Danielle rated it it was ok
This book is rich in generalized but witty observations about French culture from an American perspective. I picked up the book because I had heard could learn from Johnson's treatment of the French, and I did enjoy it in some respects. Ultimately, though, the narrative is superficial, as are all the characters, and while I had plenty of laughs while reading this, I experienced little intellectual stimulation or fulfillment and outright frustration and disgust at the over-the-top final conclusio ...more
Tiffany Young
Oct 18, 2014 Tiffany Young rated it really liked it
Le Divorce is interesting in that the cover (the cover shown here is not the one I had) looks like the book would be Chick Lit. It's not, though, which makes it interesting when you look up reviews. While it's good literature, those who may have picked it up for the cover may not have especially enjoyed it.

I found it to be refreshing. It covered quite a few different themes, such as navigating a divorce in France, the property rights of a painting, reasons for marriage and divorce, attraction t
Natalie Gamble
Sep 03, 2007 Natalie Gamble rated it did not like it
This book completely lacked character depth and was completely plot driven. Johnson gave herself a wonderful opportunity to explore the cultural differences between Americans and Frenchmen, but totally missed the mark by creating too many characters with too many questionable plot lines. She assumes the reader understands French (which not everyone does), and her passages in French are not always accompanied by contextual clues as to the meaning.

Finally, her character is visiting France, having
Eric Berntson
Mar 30, 2007 Eric Berntson rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People that like inter culture and coming of age books
This was a fun and light book on the surface; but it did explore the the cultural interplay and interactions between the Parisian/French, Americans, & Brits. There is a lot of thought put in to each of these groups impressions, thoughts, and habits when dealing with each other on money, divorce, art, food, sex, and family. The heroin is a smart girl who seizes an opportunity to grow beyond others expectation for her. Plus, it just has a nice bunch of sex, food, wine, murder, pregnancy, & ...more
Jul 30, 2008 Cecilia rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who likes literary fiction / chick lit
Shelves: favorites
A fun book, with a dark side, though. Johnson takes Paris and has some fun with the town's romantic side, but also its gritty side as well. A sister (Isabel) heads to Paris to rescue her stepsister who's husband has left her. Isabel becomes entranced with Paris (she's from California) and even becomes a "kept" woman by an older, semi-seedy Parisian man. The early stages of Chick Lit...but with more meat on the characters and the story as well. And having it set in Paris doesn't hurt none!
I don't remember a lot from this book except a narrow staircase to an apartment. p.s. in real life Le'divorce Le'sucks!!!!
Jul 26, 2007 Sarah rated it liked it
Just because it has Kate Hudson on the cover, don't expect a feel good romantic comedy.
Feb 13, 2017 Megankellie rated it liked it
Shelves: candy
Light and fun with random, surprisingly dark parts.
I read this before a trip to Paris (brag brag) and could not imagine an affair between a gal in her early 20's and a guy in his 70's. Then I went to Paris, where everyone is flirting with everyone, and somehow those old guys still have some juju and you'll see a dude squarely in his 60's and think "oooh, what's his deal." I mean the people on the news were flirting with each other, and this was a reporter and a woman who ran an art museum. So li
Peggy Davenport
Le Divorce by Diane Johnson
A Plume book Published by The Penguin Group

Ok, Let me start by saying that I LOVE chicklit...that easy to read beach bag "garbage TV" type of read at times and this is exactly what I expected going in. But can I also say that I wonder what generation this woman lives in? This utterly racist bitch?
Through out the book this chick is "afraid of black people" because the "ones they know in California" rob and rape and kill...and oh dear lord should she meet a
Sep 10, 2013 yexxo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bei diesem Buch kann man mal wieder sehen, was Titel und Umschlag so anrichten können ;-) Was aussieht wie ein typischer Chicklit-Roman ist tatsächlich eine amüsante Familiengeschichte, die ihren Unterhaltungswert aus der Gegenüberstellung der französischen und der amerikanischen Lebensart bezieht.
Die junge aus Kalifornien kommende Isabel reist nach Paris, um dort ihrer Stiefschwester Roxy zur Seite zu stehen, die ihr zweites Kind erwartet. Doch statt eines erholsamen Frankreichurlaubes mit ein
Dec 29, 2008 Anne rated it did not like it
Given the art on the cover of this book, and that it was made into a movie staring Kate Hudson, I always assumed this book was chick-lit. Then I discovered that the author has been nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize and I thought I better take a closer look. The reality is that this falls somewhere in the middle of mindless relationship nonsense and worthwhile literature. It is certainly better written than most chick-lit, and the dialogue between the characters is believable. The book featu ...more
Dec 18, 2008 John rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature, fiction
This second novel of Johnson's which I have read traces the adventures of Isabel Walker, an attractive young film school drop out who travels to France to help her sister during her second pregnancy. During the course of her stay in France her sister's husband engages in a romantic liason with a married woman and leaves her. As their divorce procedes Isabel finds herself becomming the mistress to her sisters Uncle in law. Though the lives of these women sound lke a soap opera Johnson blends thi ...more
Liz Mandeville
Being an American woman who has felt the sweet pain of an unrequited love affair with Paris, I found this book utterly delightful. I could relate to the authors struggle with the language, cultural differences and her infatuation with all things French, from the wine to the food to the French love of discord.
The plot involves (the protagonist) Izabelles sister, Roxy, a poet who has left her American family in Santa Barbara CA to make her life in Paris, married to a French painter whose family is
Jun 14, 2010 Liz rated it it was ok
I read the whole book, but honestly, I don't really see this as much of a story. It's definitely lacking intrigue, and the questions I developed as a reader were never answered anyway. I'm not sure if some parts, like Isabel taking photos and noticing them at a stall in the flea market, were supposed to be foreshadowing or not because while there seems to have been a burglary ring, no one really is ever sure who's been involved. I can't even ruin the ending becuase I feel there isn't an ending b ...more
Sep 20, 2008 Laura rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008
I am conflicted about this book. On one hand, I am morally repulsed by it, but on the other hand, I am philosophically fascinated by it. The fact that I lived in France for awhile enhances my fascination with this book. Although most of the characters live immoral lives, the story does an accurate job of juxtaposing Californians and Parisians. Note that I am specific about the regions. We can not judge the French by Parisians just as we can not judge Americans by New Yorkers, or Californians. Th ...more
Tara M
Jun 09, 2015 Tara M rated it liked it
My thoughts are mixed. At times I liked it. I thought it reasonably well written. I enjoyed reading about Paris and the two sisters and all that came with that. However, at times I struggled. It seemed to lack a real plot. It read more like someone's diary. I kept waiting for it to go somewhere and it really never did.

It was described as chick lit but it was much too sad and foreboding for that description. Some of the topics that were touched on are rarely discussed in chick lit, which I have t
Jun 08, 2012 Ellie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If given the option, I'd actually rate this 2-1/2 stars. I kept wanting to like it, and there were good parts. It was reasonably entertaining, but I wasn't compelled to read it, had to convince myself to finish it after some promising opening chapters. The main character was so selfish that while her sister is going major crises, Isabel can only feel self-pity about whether her married lover (easily old enough to be her grandfather) will continue their trysts. On the plus side, it's always fun t ...more
Oct 30, 2008 Lizzi rated it liked it
Shelves: own
I found this story of life, love, marriage, divorce, and lots of family decent enough. I enjoyed it mostly because I had spent two summers in France when I was in high school and found Diane Johnson's descriptions of family life, long drawn out meals, how French culture works, and being an American living in France to bring back memories of my summers abroad. About halfway through the book I started to loose interest a bit. The story lines got to be a bit much, and the wonder of the characters h ...more
Feb 15, 2008 Janice rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
it was very easy to read and very eh. i guess i never read any of the traditional euro-transnational ex-pat books, i had nothing to compare it to. well i read the sun also rises, but don't remember it much as an expat book as much as a post war book. It is incomparable to my own experience of having been transnational to Asia and as an american person of color vs a white american. oh and this book uses the word oriental to describe a passing person. booo. quite a few parts of it made me uncomfor ...more
Sep 20, 2008 Annie rated it it was ok
I enjoyed it for the Parisian flavor and complex characters, but I could have done well without the disgusting affair details btwn Isabel and her Septuagenarian lover (which doesn't jive with the rest of her tone throughout the rest of the book,) and the slightly overly-dramatic elements. It would have been more suited to be a "lighter read." By toying with more traumatic/grotesque elements, it kind of became one of those books you keep reading HOPING it will get better and make up for its rando ...more
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Diane Johnson is an American born novelist and essayist whose satirical novels often contain American heroines living abroad in contemporary France.

Born in Moline, Illinois, Johnson's recent books include L'Affaire (2004), Le Mariage (2000), and Le Divorce (1997) for which she was a National Book Award finalist and the winner of the California Book Awards gold medal for fiction.

More about Diane Johnson...

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