Obsession is defined as an idea or thought continually preoccupying or intruding upon a person’s mind.
There are harmless obsessions from time to time – the habit of doing particular things in a particular reassuring order, being obsessed by computer games or relentlessly pursuing a search for a rare collector’s item. Yet for some the grip of an obsession – when contaminated by greed, fear or self-destruction – can become so intense it renders the obsessive unable to break free from its thrall.
This novel – my sixth in six years – is about a man of status in late 19th Parisian high society, who becomes obsessed with a beautiful young woman he happens by mere chance to see from afar one afternoon. Propelled by mere whim, he sets out not only to establish who she is but to seduce her – to acquire her – whatever the cost. Fuelled by unparalleled arrogance and limitless wealth, his relentless pursuit of his prey plays out in a human drama, drawing others – each with their own desires, weaknesses and obsessions – into a dangerous all-consuming vortex.
The inspiration for the book came while I was looking one weekday lunch hour at a Renoir painting in London’s National Gallery – a picture of two young women in a boat on a summer’s afternoon near Paris. Who were they, where were they going, what happened to them?
I decided to provide fictional answers and, after some initial research, began writing the story in May 2019.
Encouraged by a Vietnamese friend in London, the novel soon widened in scope – not just a story set in France in the 1870s but also embracing Cochinchina, on its way to becoming part of the French overseas empire. Surprisingly, by December last year the manuscript was finished. The result – a tale of one man’s obsession and its consequences.