When Francois Hollande dumped Valerie, very publicly, having the media briefed to "catch him out" visiting Julie Gayet at night by scooter, she went into crisis. Not surprisingly. This was exacerbated by Hollande, disgracefully, using the machinery of state to keep her on such high doses of tranquillisers that she remained in hospital, barely knowing what day it was, for quite a long time. She was then placed under a kind of house arrest in a grace-and-favour house. All this was pretty much guaranteed to bring on some kind of breakdown and collapse in most people. But not in Valerie. Instead she used the time, despite being besieged by the paparazzi, to write an explosive book called "Merci Pour Ce Moment", in which she makes no secret of her love for Hollande, but assassinates his character so totally that he should never recover from it, at least personally. He is portrayed as dishonest, meretricious, unfaithful, cruel and and snobbish. I am sure he is all those things.
I highly recommend the book, which has been translated into English. It's not a ghostwritten celeb memoir, but a real book, with real things to say about celebrity, politics and the media. Valerie comes across as an attractive character: a woman who started out with no advantages in life, unlike Francois Hollande; a woman who knows what it means to be poor, but who has made her way in the world. The French literary and political establishment, of course, castigated her book, and shunned her. But the French public loved it, and her - she had not been popular when First Lady, which she makes no secret of in the book - it became a best-seller, and is, we hear, to be a film.
So, I like Valerie. She and I have never met, but I hope we will one day. I would like to invite her to lunch some time soon, with no media present.
But what's this? Here is a creature called Jeremy Harding, reviewing Merci Pour Ce Moment in the London Review of Books. He doesn't like it, or her. But he doesn't say why, other than to castigate her for repeating in the book things Hollande had said to her in private. Well, why on earth shouldn't she? Hollande should have known that if you dump your partner, especially as cruelly and publicly as he dumped Valerie, she's unlikely to do much to preserve your pride, dignity or credibility. No one in public life should say, or especially write, anything they would mind seeing in the tabloids. Although Hollande was apparently not particularly unkind about his former partner Segolene Royal (Valerie sometimes wished he would be, and did not like them staying in political cahoots after their split), Harding singles out in his review Valerie's resentment of Segolene. Harding uses the phrase "upside-down hanging", and in case we don't get the reference he adds "like Clara Petacci". In the unlikely eventuality that readers do not know who Petacci was, I point out that she was Mussolini's mistress, who was hanged alongside him, upside down, by partisans in 1945. So, what part of a woman do you see most clearly if she is hanging upside down? Quite. This is not accidental misogyny, but very deliberate. When you're having a go at a book a woman you don't like or approve of has written, you don't critique her writing or her ideas. You refer to her ****. I Googled Jeremy Harding, as you do, and the first thing that came up was an adoring interview in (where else?) the Guardian. The interview informed us breathlessly that he lives in "a lovely house near Bordeaux" and that he is "long-limbed and graceful". Puke.
The duplicitous, cruel, snobbish and grasping French political establishment, and a misogynist "journalist" who is the darling of the Guardian, on one side. One strong woman on the other. I know which side I'm on.
Valerie, let's have lunch soon.