The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles begins when Josphine’s husband runs away with his mistress to run a crocodile farm in Kenya. He leaves shy, bookish Josephine short on money and confidence. Her much bolder sister Iris takes advantage by getting Josephine to write a book that will be published under Iris’s name while Josephine pockets the proceeds. Fortunately, in the aftermath of her husband’s departure, Josephine will begin to gain the courage to stand on her own.
The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles describes a wide variety of romantic relationships. While that could lead to a book that was just fluffy drama, in Katherine Pancol’s hands it became an intelligent study of human nature. In the author interview at the back of the book, Pancol describes her belief that the plot of a book should flow directly from the characters’ fully imagined personalities. Her book embodied this philosophy, with a beautifully believable, character-driven plot. In that way, it reminded me very much of Someone Else’s Love Story. The author does a great job balancing the many plots her characters find themselves embroiled in. It wasn’t difficult to keep track of relationships and I cared how each and every story was going to play out.
The author’s ability to describe a scene was very impressive. In some books, enough details are shared that it becomes impossible to get an impression of the whole scene. Pancol does an incredible job selecting just the details that convey the character of a scene or a person. The initial scene of this book gave me one of the most vivid mental images I’ve ever gotten from a book. The few words kept in the original French added to the atmosphere. I also enjoyed the details to she chose to share about Josephine’s book writing process. It was just enough to give a general idea of the story and of how it related to Josephine’s life. I think the length of this book and the time it covered was also important for conveying Josephine’s character growth. She changes very gradually and believably. I couldn’t help rooting for her.
As someone who likes happy endings, I liked that things wrapped up with everyone I liked apparently going to get what they wanted. I would have liked a slightly more tied up ending though. For instance, a neighbor has a fascinating secret that’s never connected to the rest of the book. It’s also not entirely clear what’s going to happen next for some of the characters. Fortunately, there are two more books! Hopefully they’ll be translated too, because I can’t wait to find out what happens next.This review first published on Doing Dewey.