'Holiday in a Coma' and 'Love Lasts Three Years' are two novellas, published in one volume, by avant-garde French writer Frédéric Beigbeder. They both star dandy-about-town Marc Marronnier, a shallow, opportunistic advertising executive who spends his time schmoozing in Paris' hottest nightclubs.

'Holiday in a Coma' takes place in one dizzying night, the grand opening of a feverishly anticipated club. An old friend of his, Joss Dumoulin, who has been propelled to worldwide fame through his gimmicky DJing skills, invites him to the bash. As Marc prepares himself for yet another night of superficial hobnobbing and depravity, this is where the book starts, At the club, Marc is faced with utter decadence as people aim to out-shock one another.

With hideous portrayal of vapid fashionistas, aristocrats and try hard hipsters, no one is safe from his scathing remarks. This satirical look at high Parisian society is propelled by fury, but softened by his sharp wit. 

Beigbeder's indictment of the shallowness of society is utterly scathing, but his tone has softened in 'Love Lasts Three Years'. It is narrated by Marc a few years after his marriage to Anne, who he meets at the end of the first novella, has ended. He is exploring the theory that love can only last three years due to body chemistry.

It sees Marc at a much more vulnerable time, and the book is written like diary entries, in fits and starts, with much stream-of-consciousness ranting. He is madly in love with Alice, who he had an affair with while married to Anne, and is trying to persuade her to leave her husband and be with him. His writing is brutally honest, affecting and infused with a dark wit.

This is much more subdued, emotional and reflective, and in comparison to the first story, not nearly as cynical. His breathless love for Alice is portrayed with style and heart, and in the end we are rooting for Marc.  Both novellas are exceptionally well written, but the second is much more emotional and affecting.

Sarah McIntyre