Book Review: Deconstructing Infatuation by Mercé Cardus

Book: Deconstructing Infatuation
Author:  Mercé Cardus
Pages:   148
Format:  Paperback, Kindle/ebook
Publisher:  CreateSpace (June 1, 2012)
Book Source:   Provided by Author
Category:   Contemporary Romance
Style:   Character-driven, some sexual situations, occasional profanity

Synopsis from GoodReads:

Sometimes, whether you're single or with a significant one, somebody appears in your life unexpectedly. We feel the need to know who this person is, the need to know exactly who this person is.
A story may offer different interpretations, even with several irreconcilable and contradictory meanings. As in Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta's story in Dante's Divine Comedy, this story is not about unfaithfulness either. This story is about infatuation: what burns inside of oneself when we let ourselves fall madly for someone.

My Take:

Central to the plot of Deconstructing Infatuation are Helen Hayes, a late thirty-something literary agent living in Manhattan, and Tiziano Conti, a handsome Florentine in town to run the New York Marathon (one would assume, referred as it is as the marathon). Helen has a significant other who lives in his own apartment across town when he is in town which is not often as he is traveling 360 days of the year.

Her roommate, Marlene, comes and goes, it would seem, although the reasons for her itinerancy are never explained. It's enough to the author and presumably to the reader that Marlene will be out of town for a month and wants to sublet her bedroom, which she has done in the past with less than satisfactory results. However, this negative experience does not deter the roommates, and the story opens on the pair holding an open house in an attempt to find the right temporary tenant.

Tiziano shoulders his way in as the Johnny-come-lately five minutes before the end of the open house. He is sexy, impudent, and Italian. Helen, rigid, compulsively organized and scheduled with her life properly pigeonholed in all the correct places, dislikes messy, spontaneous Tiziano from the start. Marlene (the one leaving) pushes to accept him, while Helen (the roommate who will actually have to live with him) wants to send him packing. Marlene ultimately gets her way.

Exit Marlene. Commence the devolution of uptight, Type A, perfectly rational and calculating Helen into a spontaneous, irresponsible and ultimately irrational romantic. Tiziano's insidious corrupting influence animal magnetism and existential philosophy gradually overcomes Helen to the point that she decides to throw her entire life away based on a lot of imported Italian beer, a few mornings of burnt bagels, two weeks of flirtation, and two days of passionate wild abandon. And none of it makes any sense—especially not the abrupt and far from satisfying conclusion.

But, that's Ms. Cardus' entire point.  She writes in a matter-of-fact almost-clinical fashion doing exactly what she sets out to do: she deconstructs Helen's, if not inexplicable, unexpected and uncharacteristic anticipated renunciation of everything she had spent her entire adult life creating.  Without making any moral judgments on their "beautiful interlude", she attempts to find reason in Helen's  unreasonable impulse to fling everything over for a guy who may have no intention of progressing the relationship beyond the physical.

Ultimately, Helen knows absolutely nothing about Tiziano except that he excites her physically and makes her dissatisfied with and distrustful of her long-standing relationship with the traveler.  Moreover, she never attempts to find out anything about him, which is only one of the inexplicable things she does.  Add to that list her unfathomable expectation of finding Tiziano anxiously awaiting her return and ready to run away with her after she has spent a ten-day vacation with her boyfriend, and her grand idea that the best way to hang on to both is to "entertain" one to conceal the fact that the other lurks outside the bedroom door.  Is it any wonder that the book ends as it does? . . . and that is how, exactly?

As a reviewer, it's easy to pass judgment on Helen's behavior and rather difficult to keep from finger-wagging.  However, I must admit that Ms. Cardus does a good job of bluntly and objectively examining the situation which curiously instills in the reader the very sensibilities she wishes to convey—that of "is that all there is?"  It's a question she leaves her protagonist asking and stubbornly refuses to answer.  Ms. Cardus gets high marks for an intelligent, concise and well-written work.  I believe she accomplished what she set out to do and can be proud of her efforts.

Be that as it may, from my personal perspective, I find the entire situation difficult to fathom, starting from the moment the two women agree to allow a complete and total stranger not only into their lives—or, more to the point, Helen's unprotected life—based solely on the fact that he's attractive and they're tired of looking at candidates.  Never mind the potential intimacy issues.  How do they know he's not an ax-murderer?

Neither have I ever been able to relate to a lifestyle where casual sex is considered the opening overtures of a relationship and "commitment" means extending that intimacy beyond the physical, i.e., get to know someone beyond their first name.   Why bother to find out the unimportant stuff like, I dunno, what they do for a living or if they are married or whether or not they are even someone you want to spend any length of time with at all?  Neither do I think that Ms. Cardus was trying to make that point.  We seem to look out on two very different worlds.  But again, it's a matter of taste.

Also a matter of taste:  I skipped over probably six paragraphs total of unnecessary love-making, but it was not too terribly graphic or prevalent.  I think she dropped perhaps two F-bombs and a few more OMG-type profanities, but it wasn't anything more than one is exposed to in public and probably a great deal less.

Bottom line:  This book is very well-crafted with interesting, likable characters in what I fear are all-too-true-to-life situations.  It is emotionally compelling and distancing both at once, which takes skill, and is concise and to the point which is harder still.  If you can live with the salacious content (or self-censor), I would recommend this book.  If nothing else, it provides a window into how the other half lives. 

FTC disclaimer:  An electronic copy of this book was provided to me by the author or their agent with the understanding I would provide a fair and honest review.  I receive no other compensation for this content.


Laura Besley said...

Loved the front cover and might even like the story...
- Laura

Unknown said...

I know, right? I believe Mercé did the cover herself.

Unknown said...

Yes, I designed it myself.
Thank you Laura and Penny! :)