Though not a sequel, Diane Johnson's witty comedy of manners, L'Affaire, continues in the vein of her previous best-selling novels, Le Divorce and Le Mariage, and offers up an engaging story of Americans abroad and the cultural mayhem that follows in their wake.

In L'Affaire, an inharmonious contingent of French, British and American family members are brought together at a glamorous French ski resort in the aftermath of a devastating avalanche that leaves the family's patriarch comatose. With an inheritance hanging in the balance, each faction jockeys for position with Machiavellian savoir faire. Alliances are forged and then broken, romances are ignited and extinguished, and a chain of events is set in motion by the well-meaning but misguided actions of the unwitting young American heroine, Amy Hawkins.

Amy is a charmingly na•ve former dot-com executive who has come to France to embark on a program of cultural self-improvement. Her attempt at benevolence backfires and lands her in the eye of the storm over the inheritance. As tempers flare among the group, the thin veneer of politesse is stripped away and replaced with a divisive provincialism fueled by the quirky conventions of each nationality.

Johnson's trademark ability to deliver insightful observations on cultural stereotypes makes the novel delightfully entertaining. This fresh and sophisticated satire brings each character's motivations and prejudices sharply into focus, making the reader aware that perhaps we are all more alike than we care to think. Joni Rendon works in publishing in New York City.

comments powered by Disqus