Trysting by Emmanuelle Pagano | Review

I must admit, it was mostly the incredible cover and title that pulled me into buying this one. Isn’t it just stunning??

I’ve been wanting to read more translated fiction this year as well. So, being a little uninspired by what I was already reading, and wanting something completely different, I picked this book up, expecting to dip in and out of it every so often.

And I devoured it…


Described as both a collection of prose poetry and fragmented vignettes, it is a set of very short stories (some only a sentence, the longest is just over a page) that explore love from a multitude of different, personal places.

These short snippets of love cover first love, ageing love, lost love, and everything in between. Pagano uses things, objects, actions, fleeting moments, to piece together what this thing called love can be between people. At times uplifting and sweet, turn the page and there’s heartbreak and pain. I found myself tearing up over a story that was only three sentences long, and then laughing at a single line.

Her prose is simply beautiful. Every word has its perfect place, so that without any context at all – except, perhaps, one’s own personal experience – you fully understand and embrace what is said. I plan on going through my copy (or getting another one!) just so I can mark up all the stunning lines and passages that made me stop, just for a second, and sink into the words.

It is because of this back and forth, these mixed stories, that the structure of the collection is so well done. It feels balanced throughout, with nothing, no idea or feeling, taking greater precedence over the other. All feelings are equal, and equally valid.

There is a bit of diversity, too, which is always nice to see. The majority of stories appear to be heterosexual, but many aren’t gendered and some are clearly queer, so I really appreciated both the acceptance of different experience and that all experience can be universal. Love is love, after all.

Some stories do feel as if they link, two sides of the same coin – one pair coming to mind involves a woman who is a tree surgeon, the flip being someone describing the tree scent of his wife. That was just something I noticed, but you can clearly read them as individual pieces.

I wasn’t expecting a collection like this to be one of my books of the year. But Trysting is such a gorgeous, poignant collection that it has to be. I know I’ll return to it again and again, just flicking through the pages to find a moment that moves me, one way or another. I want to hand it out to everyone, even if they only find one little fragment appealing or interesting. I loved it, and I hope Pagano has more of her work translated in the near future.


Translated from the French by Jennifer Higgins and Sophie Lewis, this collection is published by And Other Stories in English. If you think you want a copy (and I do highly recommend!) then head on over to their website or your local independent bookshop. They’re a non-profit publisher, and all proceeds go directly back into covering the cost of production and paying their authors, so you should definitely check them out! Not sponsored, I just wanted to give them a shout out.

What’s a book that surprised you this year? Let me know down below!


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