For more than six months, Mathilde has been battling a deep depression spurred by the unwarranted and unexplained anger displayed by her supervisor at work. Every day she goes to work, she feels increasingly isolated, neglected and miserable. Thibault is a paramedic driving around Paris making house calls for the sick and needy, for some providing the only company they’ll have until his next visit. Both Mathilde and Thibault are tired and live a routine that wears on their hearts. Would they be able to save each other’s lives?
That is the main premise of de Vigan’s novel Underground Time. Although I loved No and Me, I felt that Underground Time was very much lacking. I felt that it was jumpy, disjointed, and somewhat muddled. The entire book follows the routine and events of Mathilde and Thibault on May 20th. But throughout the book, the author jumps back in time to previous events without warning, which left me wondering what was going on and when it was going on.
Both Mathilde and Thibault are likeable characters. Jacques is one of the best written jerk bosses, but even his change in feeling towards Mathilde isn’t well explained. He just shifted and she felt the wrath of his anger for months before hitting her boiling point.
It is an interesting look at what everyday life in Paris can be like. It can be like the everyday drudgery in every major city. de Vigan takes the reader through Paris’ back streets and underground metro in a distinct way that made me feel as if I was along for the ride with Thibault and Mathilde. Mathilde is a widow, single mother of three suffering at the figurative abuse at the hands of her boss. Thibault lives a very routine life and decides to break-up with his very aloof girlfriend Lila. Mathilde’s narrative and story is much more interesting and more developed than Thibaults. There are more chapters dedicated to Mathilde and her struggles at work and with her depression that with Thibault and his emotions.
Although the premise is interesting, the book doesn’t follow through on the promise of the synopsis. Mathilde and Thibault don’t interact until very late in the book, even then, it is quickly forgotten. I suppose that’s the meaning, that they can’t save each other.