Chicago, 1947: on a freezing February night, France’s feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir calls up radical resident novelist Nelson Algren, asking him to show her around. After a whirlwind tour of dive bars, cabarets and the police lockup, the pair return to his apartment on Wabansia Avenue. Here, a passion is sparked that will last for the next two decades.
Their relationship intensifies during intoxicating months spent together in Paris and Chicago. But in between are long, anguished periods apart filled with competing desires – lovers old and new, writing, politics, gambling – which ultimately expose the fragility of their unconventional ‘marriage’ and put their devotion to the test.
Watch this exclusive short film featuring Doug talking about the inspiration behind Noon in Paris, Eight in Chicago. Directed and produced by RooiNooi.
A meticulously crafted and moving piece of work... the novel’s force lies in the carefully shaped sentences and beautiful because unadorned language, from the sensitivity with which Cowie, focalising his narrative in almost equal parts through his protagonists, renders the fine grain, snags, and splinters of love, its illimitable complexities, and its decline.
This intoxicating portrayal of raw animal-magnetism is a reimagining of the love affair between Simone de Beauvoir and Nelson Algren. It is vividly atmospheric – the literary equivalent of stepping into a Hopper painting. I was walking those 1947 Chicago streets with them.
Cowie favours understatement and suggestion over bedroom fireworks... words left unsaid heat the page... A classic story brought to life by classic story-telling.
Cowie writes with great economy and assurance, a commanding sense of purpose and narrative drive which in places remind one of the best moments in Anne Tyler... like Tyler at her best, he avoids descending into sentimentalism’s familiar rhythms, resolutions, and clichés while being unafraid and unapologetic in his renderings – equally raw and incisive – of sentiment... Human feeling is the basic – which is not to say easily captured – ingredient of this new novel, which works as a satisfying and coherent whole, in no small measure thanks to Cowie’s ability to balance narrative warmth with authorial cool. Noon in Paris, Eight in Chicago is tender without ever being mawkish.
... The novel’s force lies in the carefully shaped sentences and beautiful because unadorned language, from the sensitivity with which Cowie, focalising his narrative in almost equal parts through his protagonists, renders the fine grain, snags, and splinters of love, its illimitable complexities, and its decline.
... Noon in Paris, Eight in Chicago is a meticulously crafted and moving piece of work.
Mark Blottner, co-director of Nelson Algren: The End is Nothing, The Road is All
3 May 2016
Douglas Cowie has captured the tragic love between Nelson Algren and Simone de Beauvoir with heartfelt innocence. Both were committed to social change in their writing and both were disciplined writers living an ocean apart during the most torrid moments of their affair. The couple influenced each other greatly: Algren honing his perspective of the writer in society and de Beauvoir shaping her views on sexual equality – eschewing criticism from the public and the media. Focusing on the simple truths and fundamental desires that arguably these two great intellectuals had denied themselves with others, Cowie exposes the tender, vulnerable soul of both with a deep sense of empathy.
[Nelson and Simone's] was basically the ideal kind of love affair to base a novel on, the kind of love that readers find fascinating, compelling, romantic… Cowie has captured this kind of love perfectly. The novel is intoxicating. It’s rich in places but never over-the-top. It feels both contemporary and classic. The relationship itself is just as much a character as de Beauvoir and Algren, who Cowie has brought to life with incredible intimacy… Ultimately the story of a turbulent and incredibly passionate love affair, the novel is well-written, super-engrossing and massively evocative.
The prose is taut, pacy and compelling… a fascinating study of how people see themselves, how they believe they deserve to be treated by others, and how hard done by they can feel when this does not occur. The observations of the human psyche are sharp and concise... A fascinating account.
An emotionally charged read… [with] depth and subtlety of both characters… I enjoyed this fine novel that provides a depth of background, personal and historical… melding and deepening my awareness. 5*