Sunday, October 22, 2017

How to Behave in a Crowd

Title:  How to Behave in a Crowd
Author:  Camille Bordas
Publication Information:  Tim Duggan Books. 2017. 336 pages.
ISBN:  0451497546 / 978-0451497543

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "There was a darker brown stain on our brown suede couch."

Favorite Quote:  "when people talk about love, Dory, they call it love because it is a festive word, like champagne. You hear the cork pop just saying champagne. But what they're really talking about when they say love is attachment, its, which are, admittedly, less glamorous words. And when they say you only love once ... they don't mean it in a cheesy romantic way or anything you now? It's very practical, in fact:  there is no time in life to get to know and ... tie yourself to more than one person."

I am not quite sure what to make of this book. I am undecided if the book lost something in the translation, or somehow, I just do not see the point. I get the premise, but I don't really get the book.

The book description calls the book "an absorbing, darkly comedic novel that brilliantly evokes the confusions of adolescence." Clearly, I am not the reader for this book for I miss the humor and the entire idea of a coming of age story.

Isidore "Dory" Mazal is the youngest of six siblings, growing up in a small town outside of Paris. His mother is the parent present along with the man they call "the father" who seems to travel a lot. Dory's siblings, all in their own way, are brilliant. They have skipped grades, are about to get their doctorates, are on the brink of fame, or are otherwise spectacular in some way (if only in their own vision of themselves). Dory, who is eleven as the book opens, is none of these things especially in his own vision of himself.

When tragedy strikes the family, Dory finds his strength - or so the premise of the book states. It more like Dory discovers that even the spectacular older siblings and the adults in his life are perhaps as lost as he is. The tragedy and its aftermath is, of course, part and parcel of Dory's growing up. Coming of age stories, particularly in the face of tragedy, can be touching and sweet. This one is not. When a book describes the sex-life of a twelve year old as if it is the most natural thing, I am done. I am clearly not the reader for the book.

Dory's other main line of thought is the idea of running away. Many adolescents (dare I say, even adults) contemplate running away. However, Dory actually does at times and seems none the worse for wear. Again, the tone is casual and nonchalant as if none of it matters.  This seeming lack of emotion in what is a challenging time for a family and a challenging time for an adolescent is probably the biggest stumbling block for me as a reader.

This book is filled with what the description calls quirky characters. Unfortunately, for me, quirky goes too far as to be the story of a dysfunctional family with characters that are not necessarily likable or unlikable. Sadly, either reaction would be better than the fact that for me, they elicit no interest or reaction at all. I am left with a sensation that I missed some connection.

The tragedy that is the heart of this book is casually announced in a single sentence. That's it. Not funny. Not sad. Not anything at all. I almost miss the announcement the first time through. I find myself rereading the page before and the page after for something more. What occurs should elicit sympathy for this family and particularly for this little boy but sadly elicits no reaction at all.

Overall, I am trying to explain my reaction to this book and struggling to put it into words. Honestly, that is because I walk away with just the idea that I missed something.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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