Cleves

Year: 
2011

Solange is an adolescent girl struggling with all the insecurities of adolescence while discovering her sexuality. As her peers engage in sexual relationships – be they rumored or real – Solange wishes to have sexual experiences of her own. First she explores masturbation, and she eventually has sexual encounters with men and a girl her age. Her initial encounters are mostly crude and impersonal, but they leave Solange exhilarated and desiring more, as she extracts a sense of self-worth and social status out of being “experienced.” She develops a relationship with a boy named Arnaud, a cynical and self-centered music fan that Solange believes understands and loves her underneath his tortured exterior. Although he is visibly rude to her and mostly manipulates her infatuation with him for sex, she is blind to this and actually builds unfounded romantic fantasies upon their rare and brief meetings. Meanwhile, Solange’s distant mother and absent father seem to be replaced by the gentle Mister Bihotz, her lonely caretaker, who seems to be secretly in love with her. One night Solange seduces him, and they begin an illicit affair that satisfies her only sexually but that seems to deepen Mister Bihotz’s love. She is eventually irritated by Mister Bihotz’s tenderness towards her while she is still infatuated with Arnaud. When Solange ends her relationship with Mister Bihotz after Arnaud promises to take her with him to Bordeaux (a promise that was predictably unfulfilled), Mister Bihotz drinks weed killer in an attempt to poison himself. Solange seems unconcerned and closes the novel by nonchalantly saying that she “has so many other things to think about.”

Adelita Barrett, University of Arizona