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Petite Mort

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  511 ratings  ·  85 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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Average rating 3.48  · 
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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 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
Apr 28, 2013 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 commence ...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
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.
Lesley Moseley
Sep 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
What fun. Easy reading, great characters, and a secret revealed I did not see coming!
Heather Putman
Dec 06, 2015 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 th ...more
Oct 26, 2016 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. ...more
Nov 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was such a gorgeous book to read. It was rich with plot, descriptive, mysterious and beautiful woven.
Jan 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Gosh, what to say about this book. Okay, I want to say it propelled me along easily. It was an averagely entertaining novel. The problems weren’t in the storyline but maybe more so in the flow. At times it felt clunky and needed some oiling in the transitions. I felt there were some poetic moments but I cannot put my finger on it exactly but it just didn’t feel period enough. It felt too modern for the 1910’s in Paris. Then again I love Sarah Waters and she has period drama down pat!! There was ...more
Sam Wilkinson
Jul 01, 2018 rated it liked it
I did not see that twist coming, I probably should have done, but I thought it was going to be very different. A gentle and enjoyable time slip story of silent film stars, affairs and murders.
Sep 02, 2013 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
Mar 29, 2013 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
Lesley Moseley
Sep 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh WHAT FUN!.. Did not see the secret!. All my usual likes: past faced, cinematic, rhythmic, wonderfully drawn characters et al.
Meghna Jayanth
Apr 28, 2013 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 motivation ...more
Sep 08, 2014 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. ...more
Jon Stasiak
I wasn’t a big fan of Petit Mort, but hate to not finish something when I start reading.

I was drawn in by the chiaroscuro front cover - dark, and brooding, but I don’t feel the book lived up to its cover’s promos. I would probably have enjoyed it more if I’d read it quicker - but then, as I didn’t really like it, it became more of a burden.

The Daily Mail’s back cover quote “Movie junkies will love this...” makes me think it Petit Mort would make a better film than it does a novel.
Jay Kulpa
Oct 23, 2015 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 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely outstanding. A sort of Gothic Hitchcock type story. Just read it; the less you know going in, the better.
Renita D'Silva
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wow! A fiendishly original, completely captivating page turner of a book. Loved, loved loved.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourites, mystery, 2019
I went into Petite Mort not knowing what to expect, and the reviews seem a bit mixed. But I enjoyed it enough that I had trouble putting it down. It's set in France during the early 1900s, about a young woman who wants to be a star of silent films and the mystery around the reappearance of a film she was in that was thought to be destroyed. She's not always the most likable of protagonists in the beginning and sometimes I was unsure of her motivations, but it didn't bother me. I am likely not do ...more
Jennifer Linsky
An interesting look at an imagined past. The book is set primarily in 1913 and 1914, before the first world war. The Well of Lonliness deals with much the same setting, Paris, but from some fourteen years later, and written, not with a century's hindsight, but contemporaneously. When I compare the images of Sapphic society in Paris, I wonder how truly anyone from today can portray that era.

At any rate, a lovely little mystery, though I am not at all certain that I entirely understand the ending.
Dec 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: paris, queer
Another book I wish there were half stars for! I don’t remember how or why I bought this book, but it has been on my nightstand for a while. It’s quite slowly paced with quite a few twists in the last dozen pages. Also bisexual main character for the win! A good read for being curled up by the fire.
Jan 17, 2019 rated it liked it
A mystery, a tale with a twist, a twisted tale...has a Gothic quality that makes you feel like it should be in black and white.

The writing is hypnotic, it captures, if not a sense of time and place, a sense of time and place as it would be in a movie. It's a shame everyone is so awful, but hey - they're entertaining and devious which redeems them somewhat.
Richard Pierce
Feb 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Intriguing. Gripping. Mysterious. Weird. Sensual and sensuous. Frightening. In any other book, I'd have found the tense changes within one piece of action off-putting and annoying, but here they are absolutely appropriate and act as point and counterpoint, and heighten the sense of tension and mystery. So glad I stumbled across this. A great read. ...more
Kris McCracken
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
The setting is rich in detail and evocative of a specific time and place, but I found the characters shallow and clichéd. The story moved on quickly enough, but it's not a novel that will stay with me. ...more
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a slow, seductive kind of book. Drawing you in with its very noir, silent movie feel, full of misdirection and subtle glances, ending with surprise after surprise that leaves you wide eyed and full of wonder. A slow burn kind of book.
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“Durand smiles. There is nothing behind the smile except perhaps another smile, repeating ad infinitum into the distance.
'Of course,' he says.”
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