Sunday, July 18, 2010

'Bad Marie' by Marcy Dermansky

Fiction, 2010
Harper Perennial, trade pb, 212 p.
From the publisher:
Bad Marie is the story of Marie, tall, voluptuous, beautiful, thirty years old, and fresh from six years in prison for being an accessory to murder and armed robbery. The only job Marie can get on the outside is as a nanny for her childhood friend Ellen Kendall, an upwardly mobile Manhattan executive whose mother employed Marie's mother as a housekeeper. After Marie moves in with Ellen, Ellen's angelic baby Caitlin, and Ellen's husband, a very attractive French novelist named Benoit Doniel, things get complicated, and almost before she knows what she's doing, Marie has absconded to Paris with both Caitlin and Benoit Doniel. On the run and out of her depth, Marie will travel to distant shores and experience the highs and lows of foreign culture, lawless living, and motherhood as she figures out how to be an adult; how deeply she can love; and what it truly means to be "bad".
So, a couple of weeks ago, on a Friday, two books arrived in the post, Bad Marie being one of them. I thought I’d just read the first page to get a feeling for it before I put it on my stack to read later this summer. Well, the first page soon led to the first chapter, and before I knew it I’d read through almost half of the book. I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t needed to sleep, and go out for a while on Saturday, I probably would’ve just stayed up and read it all in one sitting. As it was, as soon as I had a chance I polished it off on Saturday afternoon. Simply put, I devoured this book. Sure, it is a slim novel at just over 200 pages of reasonably big print, but I just couldn’t put it down.

Marie is a fabulous character, flawed, and yes, really quite bad, yet you can’t help but feel for her, at least I couldn’t. She’s incredibly selfish, greedy, impulsive, and arrogant, but you still want to tag along and find out what she’s going to do next, as she finds her way into, and out of, some pretty incredible situations. I would never actually want to be Marie, or probably never even want to know someone like her in real life, but I have to admit her spontaneity and self-confidence was quite seductive. On the other hand, you sense that these characteristics alone can’t possibly sustain her forever, especially as she keeps getting herself in deeper and deeper, which lends her story a certain sadness and melancholy, interspersed with the humour.

Marie definitely makes some bad choices, and does some very bad things but she’s hardly the only one. I think the only blameless character in this book is little baby Caitlin. Like life, all of the characters behave badly at times, and with everything else going on Marie’s actions almost seem to make sense. There is no longer any clear black and white or right and wrong, giving the story some extra depth and realism.

One of the things that appealed to me when I first heard about the book was the fact that it would be partly set in Paris. I have something of a soft spot in my heart for France, and Paris, so I loved reading about Marie’s experiences there from the upscale arrondissement where they first find themselves to the less-welcoming outer suburbs. And the descriptions of food! Reading this book so made me long to be in Paris again myself, sitting at a café, perhaps munching on a fresh croissant. Sigh.

Bad Marie is funny, poignant, a little naughty, a little dark, and completely unputdownable. An utterly compelling read.

My Rating: 4.5/5

Marcy Dermansky's website
Marcy Dermansky self-interview
Marcy Dermansky interview on The Bat Segundo Show
The Bad Marie music playlist on largehearted boy
Blog Talk Radio interview with the author
A Talk with Marcy Dermansky on Literary Kicks

Thank you to Erica and Harper Perennial for the opportunity to read this book.

Buy Bad Marie at: | BookDepository

Also reviewed by:
The Nervous Breakdown
Devourer of Books
Linus's Blanket
If you've read and reviewed this book, let me know and I'll link to it here.


 The small print:  This book was received free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.   Links in this post to Amazon (including book cover) or The Book Depository contain my Associates or Affiliates ID respectively.  Purchases made via these links earn me a very small commission.  For more information please visit my About Page.


  1. I came across another review for this book today. I would be most interested in a book that manages to make you feel for someone who is "bad".

  2. This looks fascinating. All the reviews I've read so far have been very positive, in fact they all raved about it! It's wonderful when you come across a book that you just can't put down, isn't it?

  3. I love the idea of a character being not particularly likable but still seductive. Great review!

  4. I haven't heard of this one but I love how you describe it as "unputdownable"! It's been a long time since I've been so immersed in a book that I might just have to put this one on the list to try it out. And I, too, love reading about Paris. Although I've been getting a whole lot of Paris through the eyes of Hugo the past five months with Les Miserables!

    Hope you're having a wonderful Sunday, Nat.

  5. I keep seeing reviews of this one everywhere, but I've paid absolutely no attention. Until today. I decided I would read your review (really read every word), and now I need to try this book.

    My checkbook groans. But I thank you!

  6. This book is getting rave reviews! I need to check it out.

  7. That's a great point you make about Marie getting herself in deeper and deeper. I definitely felt that while reading, but I didn't remember it until just now. You start to feel a foreboding sense of doom as you think "Oh man, there is no way she can get herself out of this one!"

    She was certainly a character with flaws, that's for sure!


Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I love hearing from you and I read every single one!

P.S. In an effort to eliminate spam, I moderate all comments, so there will most likely be a delay between when you submit the comment and when it appears on the post. Please let me know if you have any trouble leaving comments here, and you can also chat with me on Twitter, if you prefer. Happy Reading!