Love cures all that ails the troubled trio of "no-hopers" in this sentimental second novel by French literary sensation Gavalda (Someone I Loved; I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere). Camille, a talented artist exhausted by ennui and anorexia, cleans offices at night and cowers in a shabby garret by day. Philibert, the fastidious scion of a titled family, peddles museum postcards while squatting in his dead grandmother's Parisian manse, waiting for her estate to be settled. Philibert's roommate, Franck, a talented (and womanizing) chef with ambition to burn, motorcycles once a week to look in on his stubborn, ailing grandmother Paulette, an "inmate" at a retirement home. When Philibert finds Camille deathly ill one day, he rescues her from her icy garret and deposits her in his shabby but spacious home. Franck and Camille take an immediate dislike to each other, a sure sign that they're bound to fall in love—which happens, cutely, after they liberate Paulette. That's when, "for the first time, each and every one of them felt like they belonged to a real family." Gavalda's comically implausible and comfortably predictable novel of misfits is a Gallic charmer anchored by breezy and poignant storytelling. (Apr.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
This second novel by best-selling French author Gavalda (Someone I Loved) is a slow boil; its choppy style makes its length (almost 500 pages) daunting. But soon it's rolling along and proves itself to be one of the more lighthearted books to deal with suicide, addiction, eating disorders, poverty, and abandonment. While it follows almost every clichéd formula relating to youth, art, and love-all compounded by the romantic Parisian setting (so many picnics!)-and sometimes ventures into forced dialog, it establishes a very real dynamic among its main characters: Camille, the intellectual artist waif; Philibert, the stuttering young aristocrat who rescues her from a freezing garret; Franck, the angry, overburdened young chef; and Paulette, Franck's ailing grandmother. This impromptu family lives and grows together in an old apartment that becomes the chambered heart of the novel. Even if you know exactly where the sentimental plot is headed, you want to make the trip with these people and believe in their particular brand of fairy tale. Recommended for public libraries.
Three oddballs form an alternative family in Paris; its warm heart and youthful vibe have made Gavalda's novel, originally published in France in 2004, a bestseller in that country and elsewhere. Camille Fauque has hit rock-bottom, living on the streets, when a friend finds her shelter: a tiny maid's room in a grand old building in a ritzy Paris neighborhood. The skeletal 26-year-old is weighed down by life's miseries; once a talented artist, she now cleans offices after hours. Her salvation is a neighbor. The timid, gangly, stammering Philibert is no better at coping with life than Camille (he sells postcards), but the kind-hearted aristocrat recognizes a damsel in distress and installs her in his magnificent apartment, which he's guarding until an inheritance battle is resolved. Philibert already has one roommate, who uses the place just to bed his many girlfriends. Franck Lestafier is a talented if inarticulate saucier at a top-of-the-line restaurant; he cares only for his motorbike and his grandmother Paulette, who raised him. The frail old lady has just been moved into a retirement home, which she hates, and Franck finds his weekly visits there torture. Nor is he happy about the arrival of Camille: "She's skinny, stupid, pretentious, and as weird as my roommate." The thaw begins with their shared enjoyment of a Marvin Gaye album. Then Franck has her help out at the restaurant on New Year's Eve: She's a sensation. Only much later, in long monologues, will Franck and Camille reveal their troubled pasts. The "family" becomes complete when Camille moves sweet-natured Paulette in with them; she has quit her job to be a caregiver (she's also started drawing again). Will Franck and Camillebecome lovers? Of course, but Gavalda (Someone I Loved, 2005, etc.) rings changes on this predictable outcome, and sentimentality is held in check by Franck's habitual gruff profanity. A charming account of achieving happiness against the odds.