I haven’t come across too many novels regarding men’s feelings about heartbreak, their place in the world, their current status as “men”, and other issues that may arise but are not talked about much due to the fact that - well, they’re men. And if they are written, it’s a little tough to manage such a story without it coming across as “too whiny” or make one roll the eyes. Chuck Palahniuk’s “Fight Club” is one novel that comes to mind that explores this theme in a unique and original way. Now Tonino Benacquista has written a novel for men, about men, with depth and humor, one which was an absolute joy to read.
Tonino Benacquista, from France, is known more for his crime and Noir novels and “The Thursday Night Men” seems to be a big departure. The story centers around three men who have experienced their version of loss and heartbreak. At 7pm, every Thursday night, men from across Paris meet in secret locations in order to tell their stories. The three main characters, Denis - a waiter, Philippe - a renowned philosopher, and Yves - a window installer, all find one another at these meetings and quickly become friends, often meeting for drinks afterwards to discuss what’s going on in their lives. The narrative follows each of their current stories. Philippe meets and gets involved with a well known fashion model who’s the envy of every man across the world; Denis, who had long ago lost interest in women, even going as far as thinking they’re all “plotting” against him to make him unhappy, slips into deep depression until one day a strange young woman shows up at his door and takes it upon herself to move in with him, ruining his solitude; and Yves, a recent divorce/cuckold who decides to experience pleasure at all costs by turning exclusively to prostitutes. Each of their stories takes a trajectory which will force them to re-think their current positions on love, women and the nature of male friendship.
Each of these characters - as well as those they come into contact with - are written with such depth and originality one can’t help wondering how it’s all going to turn out for each of them. The story builds, slowly, and moves forward with a tension that keeps the book glued to your hands. I’m not going to give away anything here. This is one of those you must read for yourself. Not only will it entertain but it will make you think, which is what all great novels should do. If you’re a man who’s ever gone through a rough relationship, a heartbreak, or are just one who simply questions what the role of men are in contemporary society, this is a book for you. One of the better novels to come along in a long time. Highly recommended.