Reviews > Published on January 2nd, 2014

Bookshots: 'The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles' by Katherine Pancol

Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review


The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles

Who wrote it:

Katherine Pancol, a journalist and one of France's best known contemporary authors.

[Pancol] masterfully illustrates how Josephine's metamorphosis ripples through the community of family and friends that surrounds her...

Plot in a Box:

When Josephine kicks out her cheating husband, she is forced to take control of her life, her family, and her future.

Invent a new title for this book:

A Most Humble Queen

Read this if you like:

It's sort-of a populist version of Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad, so if that sounds good, this might be for you.

Meet the book's lead:

Josephine has felt overlooked and overshadowed by those around her since childhood, but when she takes control of her life, she is transformed by new confidence.

Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:

I'm going with Drew Barrymore here. She's about the right age, she's now a mother, and she's previously portrayed a woman in France who undergoes a major transformation (Ever After, 1998).

Setting: Would you want to live here?

Live outside Paris? Definitely.

What was your favorite sentence?

But in the evening, reality didn't have such a jagged edge, and the yellow eyes of crocodiles were a thousand points of light.

The Verdict:

The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles is an enjoyable, well written work centering around one woman's journey to self-discovery. Josephine, our protagonist, begins the novel as an (occasionally exasperatingly) unconfident woman. Simply splitting up with her husband Antoine, who is unemployed and having an affair, is intimidating and ground-shattering for her. Slowly Josephine begins to rebuild her life. She strengthens her friendship with her neighbor, Shirley, a fiery and independent single mother. Josephine's relationships with her daughters don't come as easily. Hortense is growing into a ravishing young woman learning to wield the power of sex appeal, while her childish younger sister, Zoe, clings more emotionally to the people and events around her.

Many of Josephine's insecurities reveal themselves through her relationship with her own sister, Iris, and nearly unravel through her relationship with her mother. As she navigates her new life as a single mother, Josephine is forced to face these relationships head on. When she agrees to ghostwrite a novel for her sister which becomes a national best-seller, the tensions among the extended cast of family members soon rocket out of control.

Pancol's characters are interesting and multi-dimensional. Even Antoine, who runs to Africa with his mistress, has his voice included in the novel (as does Myelene, the mistress herself). Not only are the individual characters enjoyable, but the inclusion of so many diverse personalities makes the novel quite fun to read, and makes each chapter a surprise. But although Pancol gives a platform to so many of her characters, she never shies from making them fallible, which ultimately makes the personalities believable... even if some of the plot points are a little contrived.

The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles is an engaging and entertaining work. It is a pleasure to watch Josephine discover herself, a transformation that Pancol achieves effortlessly. She masterfully illustrates how Josephine's metamorphosis ripples through the community of family and friends that surrounds her, showing how small changes in one individual can affect even the relationships and lives of others in unexpected ways.

About the author

Teeney Hood is an avid reader living in Los Angeles. She works with at-risk high school girls and is an associate programmer with the American Film Institute Film Festival.

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