Petite Mort, by Beatrice Hitchman, Serpent’s Tail, RRP£12.99, 288 pages
Beatrice Hitchman’s first novel revisits the early days of film, when cinematic trickery astonished audiences.
The year is 1913: Adèle Roux makes costumes at the Pathé studios in Paris and dreams of becoming an actress. Willing to sleep her way to stardom, she soon finds herself embroiled in a fevered ménage-à-trois with a famous director and his prima-donna wife. Adèle duly wins a part in a new film, which features a daring “doppelgänger” special effect. But before it can be released the print is destroyed in a fire – and its star implicated in a sensational murder trial.
Hitchman tells in parallel the story of a journalist who interviews the ageing Adèle about the incident, shifting between the two periods like a virtuoso film-maker executing jump cuts.
While it is perhaps too coy about its thriller aspects, Petite Mort is an impressive and enjoyable debut: nimble, deft, and wrapped luxuriously in the velveteen glamour of the movies.