Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Mystery of Henri Pick

  The Mystery of Henri Pick
Author:  David Foenkinos (author). Sam Taylor (translator).
Publication Information:  Pushkin Press. 2020. 288 pages.
ISBN:  1782275827 / 978-1782275824

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "In 1971, the American writer Richard Brautigan published The Abortion:  An Historical Roman 1966, a quirky love story about a male librarian and a young woman with a spectacular body."

Favorite Quote:  "Readers always find themselves in a book, in one way or another. Reading is a completely egotistical pleasure. Unconsciously we expect books to speak to us. An author can write the most farfetched or implausible story ever, but there will still be readers who will still be readers who will say: 'I don't believe it:  you wrote the story of my life!'"

Bookstores, libraries, publishers, booksellers. The sources for published books are numerous and readily found. Through The Mystery of Henri Pick, I learn that there are places to go to find manuscripts the publishing industry has declined. In a 1971 novel titled, The Abortion:  An Historical Romance 1966, author Richard Brautigan wrote a character who works at a library of unpublished manuscripts. In 1990, Todd Lockwood brought the library's vision to life in Vermont. The library closed due to lack of funding. However, in 2010, the library was moved to Vancouver, Washington, a short distance away from where Richard Brautigan was born.

This literary history appeals to this bibliophile! It also forms the basis of The Mystery of Henri Pick. The book takes the idea of the Brautigan library and moves it to the small town of Crozon in Brittany. Delphine Despero, a literary agent, has family in the area. Her partner is an author whose one published work did not make the splash he envisioned.

In this library of forgotten books, Delphine discovers a masterpiece. She brings it to Paris and proceeds to be publish it. The stated author is a now-dead pizza chef whose family had no idea that he liked books much less that he might have written one. The family's reaction is perhaps the funniest part of the book for me.

The rest of the book, of course, is about the question of who the mysterious Henri Pick is. Is it the pizza chef? Is it someone else? Who? Now that the book is a phenomenal success, will someone else step forward to take credit? Should the financial gain from the book go to the pizza chef's family? Can someone else take credit or have things gone too far? The conclusion, when it comes, is somewhat of a surprise but then leaves the reaction that it was the only possible conclusion. The "mystery" of Henri Pick turns to not be all that much a mystery. The conclusion is a very satisfying "but, of course" as to the author's identity.

This is a book about authors, publishers, and book lovers. "According to him, it was not a question of liking or not liking to read, but of finding the book that was meant for you. Everybody could love reading, as long as they had the right book in their hands, a book that spoke to them, a book they could not bear to part with." It is a book for bibliophiles with lots of literary references, many to French literature with which I am not familiar but nevertheless. The book meanders through this world, going back and forth between characters and times and locations. The "farcical" part of the book description is very much embodied in the book. The "moving" part is much less present for me. M favorite part is actually not the story itself, but the little known history I learned about the Brautigan Library.

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

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