Book Review: Rider on the Rain by Sebastien Japrisot

Rider on the Rain
By Sebastien Japrisot
Copyright 1992 (in French; 1999 for English translation)
The Harvill Press
151 pages

Rating – 6/10

Summary – Rider in the Rain has many things in common with Japrisot’s best work – vivid descriptions, interesting characters, strong settings, and a plot that keeps you guessing. Unfortunately, a weak plot and an ambiguous conclusion keep Rider from being “top shelf.”

Review – Sebastien’s Japrisot’s 1992 novel Rider on the Rain is actually a novelization of the script that he co-wrote for the 1970 Charles Bronson film of the same title. Once one knows that it is a novelization, one can spot the author’s “cinematic” presentation. Judged strictly as a novel, Rider on the Rain is worth reading, but it is far from Japrisot’s best work.

Many of Japrisot’s books feature a young, female protagonist; often, the woman is bourgeious (middle class), but the story takes her into an unfamiliar world. In Rider on the Rain, the protagonist is Melancolie (!) Mau, or Mellie. Japrisot describes her –

“She is blonde, pretty, wearing a white turtle-neck sweater. White suits her. She is twenty-five years old. She has a sensible haircut, a sensible face, a sensible life, and doubtless, in her heart, dreams as crazy as everybody else’s, but she has never told them to anyone” (p. 6).

One of the best things about any Japrisot novel is his eye for detail. His prose shows brings his settings alive. Consider Rider in the Rain’s opening, during which a bus stops during a rain storm –

“A peal of thunder, a grey river spattering in a downpour, a horizon blurred by autumn. And then the wheels of a bus send up great glistening sprays of water, and the river becomes a road running the length of a desolate peninsula, somewhere between Toulon and Saint-Tropez” (p. 5).

In the novel, a stranger arrives in the tiny seaside village of Le Cap-des-Pins. He rapes Mellie, which leads her into a twilight world in which people are not what they appear to be. Keeping the reader off balance is a hallmark of Japrisot and in Rider the reader struggles to determine what is happening.

Eventually, a mysterious American named Harry Dobbs arrives; somehow, Dobbs knows many of Mellie’s secrets. In the short book, Japrisot develops subplots involving both Mellie’s husband, Tony, and her mother, Juliette. However, neither subplot is fully realized. The novel’s conclusion lacks “punch” and the reader feels only partially satisfied.

The End

After reading several of Japrisot’s novels, I have to conclude that he is a “hit-and-miss” author – terrific when he’s on his game, but mediocre when he’s not. Unfortunately, Rider on the Rain is just “pretty good.” Readers interested in Japrisot should start with Trap for Cinderella and some of his other, earlier novels.

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About mobilemojoman

I have been a Mobile resident for about a decade. Working as a college professor keeps me off the streets and pays the bills. I am married to a woman (the MojoWoman) who is a much better person than I am and we have two beautiful girls who keep us both jumping. My interests are varied - food & drink, sports, politics, exercise, books, travel, Mardi Gras, and all of life's rich pageant. In the future, I'd like to learn more about sailing, photography, Cajun/Creole cooking, making beer and wine, and writing.
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