Novel, originally in French
Why did I pick this up?
First, the title is intriguing. Second, the cover says it was made into a film starring Audrey Tautou. Third, it's something new to me, a modern fiction novel translated from French to English. Fourth, it's sold in a bargain price. Fifth, I am in my element to read a fiction.
I like the fast-paced writing style of the writer (He has 115 chapters for 250 pages, no wonder) . He introduced me to the characters like introducing them in a speeddating: only fast and essential facts are needed. Although the delicacy of the characters were not understood immediately in the book until one reaches two-thirds of it, one cannot stop but delight in the development of the story.
It started with a serious note: marriage bliss of Natalie which was abruptly ended by death of her husband Francois and her mourning. Then the story continued with one mysterious act that set the dominoes in motion: one kiss to an unknown coworker named Markus initiated by Natalie. Then all throughout the ending, the delicacy of Natalie, Markus and Charles was unfolding beautifully and with clarity. It's worth the wait, despite I said at the start that the writer has a fast-paced writing style.
There are minor breaches of consistency in the exposure of characters. Despite the lack of explanation as to why Natalie was suddenly prized for her pretty face in the middle of the pages when half of the book did not mention that and despite the annoying and slow exposure of the character of Charles who was in fact a man-in-waiting from the start and suddenly described as a womanizer in the end, the story is unfolding pleasantly and consistently with its title.
The notes and lists of the writer between chapters are a few times helpful and insightful but they were always intrusive and I want to skip them all the time. With this style, he is putting too much salt.
What I cannot skip mentioning here is that the writer's reference to European places or nationalities to describe someone or something. Although I am not smart about it, I find them endearing, in a way (I just don't know whether Swedes will object). He described Natalie as private, a kind of Swiss femininity (culturally, I can't imagine what he was saying but still I find this rather amusing). The writer mused through Markus that “childhood in Sweden is like old age in Switzerland” (again, I can only surmise). Also, he said through Natalie that Markus has a touch of “the East”; it was like Romania and Poland in Sweden (Again, I need to google to find out: was it about culture or geography?). Uppsala is a Swedish city that doesn't interest people; the inhabitants themselves are embarassed. It was like United States inviting Liechtenstein to lunch. And many more.
Lastly, Chapter 20 can be omitted; 47 is ridiculous a tale. I love pages 248 (last paragraph) to 249 which was of course followed by my favorite chapter in page 250.
Any lines to remember?
Here are some of them that I highlighted with a colored pencil:
...but Natalie was living in the peculiar ether of monogamy. Sorry: of love. The love that annihilates all other men, but also any objectivity about seduction attempts.
Can you keep reading a book interrupted by the death of your husband?
Delicacy. 2. showing fragility. Delicate crystal.
Mourning possesses a double-edged power, an uncompromising power that propels everything as much toward the necessity for change as toward the morbid temptation to stay faithful to the past.
This kiss was like modern art.
We're not masters of our biological clock.
Our bilogical clock isn't rational. It's like an unhappy love affair: you don't know when you'll get over it.
How can you go to dreamland when you'd just left it?
Life can be beautiful when you understand the inconveniences of being born.
Dictionaries stop where the heart starts.
Do you know the real source of strength? The kiss, the kiss alone!... The kiss is only a preface, however... Excerpt from “The Kiss,” a story by Guy Maupassant
But he was familiar with strange facts of life, with strokes of luck, coincidences. The evidence that made you doubt rationality.
Any extra thumb up for this book?
I wonder how this turned out in the movie screen.