Saturday, July 4, 2009


Pages: 320
Date: 03/07/2009
Grade: 5
Details: Translated from French

To me this read as a very French book, or what I imagine a real French book to be. It focuses more on the character's emotions and thought processes than on their interactions with others. It was very introspective and philosophical, and gave me lots to think about.
It's the sort of book that should be read very slowly, while taking the time to think about what you are reading and to process it. Slow reading, however, is something I am incapable of, especially once a story captures me. So for me this is a book that definitely deserves at least one re-read.
The only thing I found hard at times were the very long sentences that occasionally popped up. Sentences that at times were hard to decipher. Not that this put me off the story or the characters. For me it only added to the intrigue and reinforced the impression of dealing with a translation from French.
Renee Michel is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building and has spend her 29 years there hiding her true self from the residents. To them she is a stereotypical concierge; honest, reliable, uncultured, always there but hardly ever noticed. In reality she is very clever, intelligent, knowledgeable in the arts, philosophy and literature.
Paloma Josse is a very intelligent 12 year old girl who despairs of her life, her family and what she perceives as her pre-ordained bourgeois future. To avoid this dreaded future she decides that she will kill herself on her 13th birthday, unless she can find a redeeming quality somewhere in the life around her.
Both their lives change dramatically though, when the death of one of the residents brings a new figure into their lives, opening them up to new insights and possibilities.

"Madame Michel has the elegance of the hedgehog: on the outside, she's covered in quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary - and terribly elegant." (p. 139)
"Television distracts us from the onerous necessity of finding projects to construct in the vacuity of our frivolous lives: by beguiling our eyes, television releases our mind from the great work of making meaning." (p. 173)
"What to do
Faced with never
But look
For always
In a few stolen strains?" (p. 317)
"...maybe that's what life is about: there's a lot of despair, but also the odd moment of beauty, where time is no longer the same. It's as if those strains of music created a sort of interlude in time, something suspended, an elsewhere that had come to us, an always within never."
"Because from now on, for you, I'll be searching for those moments of always within never.
Beauty, in this world" (p320)

No comments: