Jealousy: The Other Life of Catherine M.
I am at a loss as to how to review Jealousy: The Other Life of Catherine M. I suppose that’s not a very good way to write a review, but it’s the truth. After reading this memoir, I feel as though I know nothing about the author Catherine, her partner Jacques, or any of the nameless lovers that passed through both of their lives.
Catherine Millet is an art critic, and, in her words, a libertine. Her first memoir, The Sexual Life of Catherine M., was the story of her life told through the numerous sexual encounters she has had. She participated in outdoor sex, orgies, and same sex encounters, among others. In Jealousy, Catherine let us into the love side of her life. “I had love at home. I sought only pleasure in the world outside.” When she discovers her partner Jacques has had numerous affairs, she is devastated. She obsesses over his affairs, trying to figure out when they occurred, with whom and who knew.
Yet, her narrative voice is disconcerting. In The Sexual Life of Catherine M., the detached voice Millet writes with was a fascinating way to present such lusty endeavors. In Jealousy, that detachment becomes a wall between the author and her audience. It began to feel less like a narrative decision and more like Millet is detached from herself. When she casually mentions that her previous partner beat her, but “I never saw any anger in his face,” it is legitimately hard to judge how to take that information. Her descriptions of how she dealt with Jacques’ betrayal are similarly detached. “Discovering the name to match the initial, putting a face to it, piecing together a set of circumstances and a precise place, based on a given date. And above all, translating two or three words used by Jacques into a whole dialogue, with gestures and speech, between him and the figure I had created, with more or less accuracy.” She channels all of her angry, jealousy, and rage into sexual fantasies that both humiliate and empower her.
She admits that Jacques was not happy at her sexual life when they met, and that they had never discussed the boundaries in their relationship. She never connects his actions with her own. Because Jacques is so enigmatic, her reaction seems much more like an overreaction. He is so far removed that he is more of a concept than a person. The memoir needed him as much as her, and without him, it feels imbalanced.
I do not know whether to tell you to read the book or not. If you enjoyed The Sexual Life of Catherine M., Jealousy may be the perfect complement to it. If you did not like Sexual Life, you will not like Jealousy. Also, if you haven’t read Sexual Life, then this is not the book for you.