[REVIEW] Based on a True Story by Delphine de Vigan


Describing this book is so fun because it’s just so unusual. This is a fiction book but the tricky part is that it features Delphine de Vigan (the author) as a character called by the same name, Delphine de Vigan. All the happenings in the authors life are the same (writing of ‘Nothing Holds Back the Night’ and her life and relationships) but it also features another character named L (pronounced elle=she,her). It’s a mix between reality and fiction which makes it completely unique and again unusual.

When you’re an adult, friendship is built on a kind of recognition, of complicity: a shared territory. But it seems to me that in the other person we look for something that we only possess in a minor, embryonic or frustrated form. So we tend to form links with those who have been able to develop a way of being that we incline towards but have not attained.

Delphine de Vigan has written her latest novel ‘Nothing Holds Back the Night’ and after its huge success she gets stuck writing her next one. The expectation of topping her previously published book is taking its toll on her and making her depressed and unable to approach a computer and even type anything into her Word file. Now questions of her morality come up: Why has she shared such a personal story of her family with the world? Was it all even true? Had she no shame for doing that? While pondering over these questions she meets L. a beautiful and fascinating woman at a book event she attended.  She immediately becomes drawn to her – she’s everything Delphine aspires to be. From this point on their friendship intensifies and they become very good friends – they have dinners, they share their personal stories and their work but something is wrong.. L. is now taking over her life, she starts to dress like her, reply to her emails, she even mimics her mannerisms. What originates from a healthy friendship turns into a toxicicity of great length. Does she really know L.? Was their encounter a coincidence or does L. have hidden motives?

You know, what interests me,’ I went on, ‘is understanding what we’re made of. How we manage to assimilate some events, some memories, which mix with our own saliva, spread through our flesh, while others remain like sharp stones in our shoes. How can we decipher the traces of the child on the skin of the adults we claim to have become? Who can read these invisible tattoos? What language are they written in? Who is capable of understanding the scars we think we’ve learned to hide?

This novel was something strange, something personal and I feel like this was a therapeutic thing for Delphine and she needed to write it.. I feel like she needed to write this so she can let go of her worries but then again this story is fiction and it may not represent her feelings at all. The title ‘Based on a True Story’ is brilliant and the origin of the title takes place in the book and I have to say that this book is very intelligently written. A shoutout to the translator George Miller because I loved the way he made sentences come to life. Having previously read ‘Nothing Holds Back the Night’ I appreciated this book more and I recommend you read that one before this one but it’s not necessary. I just love how she created this story resembling her life and adding fiction to it or did she add fiction to it? The French are making an adaptation of this book ‘D’après une histoire vraie’ with Eva Green as one of the leads but I have to say that making an adaptation of this book isn’t something that I’m all for because I view it as something personal to both the reader and the author.

This is a great novel from Delphine de Vigan and it is definitely worth reading because of its peculiarity and thrillery aspects.

I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher (Bloomsbury UK) for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

My rating: 

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Delphine de Vigan is an award-winning French novelist. She has published several novels for adults. Her breakthrough work was the book No et moi (No and Me) that was awarded the Prix des Libraires (The Booksellers’ Prize) in France in 2008.
In 2011, she published a novel Rien ne s’oppose a la nuit (Nothing holds back the night) that is dealing with a family coping with their mother’s bipolar disorder. In her native France, the novel brought her a set of awards, including the prix du roman Fnac (the prize given by the Fnac bookstores) and the prix Renaudot des lycéens.