“Petite Mort” is a silent French film from early 1914, long thought lost in a fire that ripped through part of the Pathé film studio. Now, in 1967, a print of the film has been found in a Parisian suburb – though it is missing one crucial scene, and the film has been crudely spliced back together. The film has a certain notoriety: its star, Adele Roux, was involved in a sensational murder trial, again not long after completion of the film, and thereafter became a total recluse.
A few days after filing her story about the re-discovery of the film, the young journalist Juliette Blanc is contacted by none other than Adele Roux. Adele wants a ghost writer for her memoirs.
PETITE MORT is a brilliant kaleidoscope of converging and conflicting stories. There is the story of Adele and her arrival in Paris, from the Languedoc, as a naive but hopeful young woman determined to escape her family and to break into the glamorous new film industry. There is the story of André Durand, an adopted child from Louisiana, who also escaped to Paris and became the greatest special effects wizard of his day. And there is Terpsichore Durand, his movie star wife. Adele finds her feet in Paris, but is quickly under André’s spell. In turn André introduces Adele to Terpsichore, and thus is created an explosive triangle.
"Sumptuously set, elegantly written, evocative and quietly subversive." - Stella Duffy
"There are several rather tasty twists in this novel, more than enough to keep you guessing until the end. Like the silver screen world Hitchman portrays, her writing shimmers, drawing you in with glamour and trickery. A fascinating, beguiling and wily debut." - Katie Ward, author of Girl Reading
"This debut novel by Beatrice Hitchman is a dazzling tour-de-force... utterly compelling." - Polari Magazine
"Compelling ... Hitchman's confident debut is a story about relationships and the risks we take to get what we want. Universal themes, beautifully explored." - Diva
"Sumptuous ... part Moulin Rouge, part Alfred Hitchcock."
"Gorgeously written ... with a fantastic twist at the very end ... fascinating." - Image
"The atmosphere is rich with sumptuous details but Hitchman resists nostalgia and, as a result, the technological advances of the period appear as striking to the reader as they do to the characters... This clever debut indicates a bright future for its author." - Independent
"There's a touch of Angela Carter about Beatrice Hitchman's beguiling debut Petite Mort – a sly, erotic thriller concerned with doubleness and duplicity that's both a primer in the early history of French cinema and a reflexive study in female self-fashioning" - Guardian
"Movie junkies will love this surprising and original novel ... the story winds itself in knots, then unravels deftly, providing a satisfactory judgment day for the sexy yet heartless central characters in a wholly unexpected ending." - Imogen Lycett Green, Daily Mail
"An impressive and enjoyable debut: nimble, deft and wrapped luxuriously in the velveteen glamour of the movies." - David Evans, FT