That Mad Ache (La Chamade) by Françoise Sagan

This is my second Sagan (after Bonjour Tristesse) and once again, she did not disappoint. In That Mad Ache we are introduced to Lucile, a young woman who finds herself torn between two lives; one that involves an older man, Charles who offers her the world - but who she does not love, and another younger man, Antoine, whom she is crazy about but must sacrifice her posh lifestyle to be with.

Set in Paris in the 1960's, Lucile isn't a one-dimensional as she may seem, although she does exude characteristics of Scarlette O'Hara and Catherine with her detest for responsibility and refusal to grow up completely. She is only interested in the present, neither dwelling on the past nor planning for the future.
Was there anything left in this world that could still imbue childhood with some charm, after all the sad wailing of novelists, the obscure theorizings of psychoanalysts, and the fatuous outpourings of random souls encouraged to vent themselves on the theme, "When I was a child"? Only the nostalgia for those days of utter, absolute irresponsibility, now long gone. But for her (and this should would never have admitted to anyone), those days weren't gone at all. She still felt totally irresponsible.
Of course leading this kind of life never goes unpunished, and Lucille finds herself having to chose between an easy life or that which she loves most. The story is altogether heartbreaking and hopeful, written in a didactic tone, and explores the conflict of passion and understanding. It is less a love story than it is a novel that examines the choices we make and their greater ramifications.
But now she had a day and a half to make up her mind - and "prendre une decision" was among the most terrifying phrases in the entire French language to her.
If you are looking for an interesting, straightforward read, I'd recommend That Mad Ache. However if you haven't read Sagan yet, I would suggest you start with Bonjour Tristesse. To learn more about Sagan herself, check out my earlier post Françoise Sagan, My New Favorite.

Publisher: Basic Books, 2009 (English edition)


  1. I've never heard of her before, but I'll definitely have to check her out!


    Tedious & Brief

  2. I adored Bonjour Tristesse, it had such great human insight.

    I will make The Mad Ache my next purchase.

    Thank you.

  3. 1,2,3...! On to the wishlist it goes! Thanks for the review.

  4. I have this book at home waiting to be read. I loved Bonjour Tristesse and also Sunlight on Cold Water which I can highly recommend too. I found three battered old penguin copies of some of her other books in a second hand shop recently and was so excited! She doesn't waste a word, does she? I love her books.