My book review of 'The Scent of Flowers at Night' by Leila Slimani

by Leila Slimani

This author attracts a lot of attention. She is young and French and her novels have been international bestsellers.

I very much enjoyed her debut novel 'Lullaby' so have joined in following her career and was excited to see she had written this memoir. She had been invited to spend a night in a museum in Venice and to write about the experience.

That sounds a great gig! 

But this is a rather melancholy book. She talks of the challenges of being a writer. How you always have to say no - no, I won't meet for a drink, no, I'm not free for lunch, no, I can't see a film. She quotes Hemingway: "The further you go in writing, the more alone you are...You are more alone because that is how you must work and the time to work is shorter all the time and if you waste it you feel you have committed a sin for which there is no forgiveness."

So being alone in a place that nobody else could enter and from which she couldn't escape - that was a writer's fantasy, she said. But being in Venice brought another challenge: "there is nothing more frightening for a writer than those subjects about which it seems that everything has already been written."

It's an intriguing book. Slim and sparse with what, to me, was a very unappealing cover and an unfortunate fragmentation of what I thought was rather an appealing title. Not a book to be rushed, but to be pondered - if you are interested in a writer's life.

Review date: March 2023
Publication date: 20th April 2023