Couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about for well nigh two thirds of this prizewinner. Found the philosophising overbearing, the pace annoying and the vocabulary quite frankly difficult en français.
Then all of a sudden the magic began to unfurl (probably around the time of the emergence of the new character) – and I became totally entranced. The whole story sweeps into a new place, to which I was willingly and utterly transported. The dénouement then becomes almost unbearable: I remember sitting in a coffee shop at the time of reading awaiting the then much younger Offspring, determined to get to the finish but quite unable to, as I had no blessed tissues in my bag (who ever does when you need them most) and terrified I was about to burst out into ugly sobs at any second. It’s a ‘must-persevere-to-the-end’ read.
Set not far from where I type now on the boulevard de Grenelle, the unexpectedly highly cultured concierge Renée reads Proust on the quiet, calls her pussy cat Léon in honour of Tolstoy and is secretly studying philosophy, while the people she is employed to serve look down their ignorant, snooty noses at her, quite unaware that appearances can be deceptive. Enter gifted child Paloma and the erudite Kakuro Ozu, and life suddenly takes on a whole new meaning….
Winner of an armchair full of accolades, the book was also translated into a cracking film starring Josiane Balasko, who does a jolly good job of conveying Mme Michel. And rendered memorable in our household due to my completely ruining the key moment at the cinema with my daughter, with the old anticipatory body language giving everything away, just like when we watched “One Day” and I put my hand over her eyes ten seconds before THAT moment and blew the gaff – it is any wonder I am sent off on my own to the cinema…
Read in 2007.
Rating : 10/10
Prix George Brassens 2006, Prix des Libraires 2007, Prix de l’Armitière de Rouen 2007, Prix Rotary 2007…