L'homme de chevet concerns an alcoholic (in his late twenties) who applies for a job as a help to a tetraplegic woman (also in her late twenties), a victim of a car crash. A kind of re-birth begins, against all odds: whereas Muriel's other help, Marie, needs to inject herself with heroin to numb herself from the horror of her duties, the man develops an obsession, a love for Muriel, so strong that he loses his dependence for drink.
A transformation begins too in Muriel, whom the man takes for a taxi-ride to Marseille (the book is set in Provence), including a dinner at a restaurant where people don't regard her as a freak: he's very protective of her. Muriel even buys a car for him to chauffeur her around in, driving fast, and she's not frightened she loves the thrill, and is also developing a love for her employee.
This is a short but fascinating book which inevitably reminded me of Hal Ashby's film Coming Home (1978) with Jane Fonda and the wheelchair-bound Jon Voight, the Vietnam casualty. The trouble is the boxing sub-plot here, which takes up almost half of the book, is quite unnecessary, and ruins things flat. OK, if the boxing scenes were removed we would only be left with a short story, but why not give us more of the real story? Yes, I understood the analogy of the dog, etc, but so what?
My other post on Éric Holder:
Éric Holder: Mademoiselle Chambon