Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hunting and Gathering

Translated from the French, Hunting and Gathering, Anna Gavalda's latest book is, apparently, a departure from her previous two books in that it is not a dark story of love denied nor lost nor roads not taken.  It is a story driven by its characters rather than a plot.

The characters are Camille, who works as a 'cleaning operative' and lives alone in a tiny, unheated, delapidated garret with a Turkish toilet on the landing and doesn't eat; Philibert, an aristocrat 'minding' an enormous flat which is the subject of a family inheritance feud and which is in the building in which Camille lives; Franck who lives in Philibert's flat and is a talented chef with severe boorish tendencies and Franck's Grandmother, Paulette, who is too old to look after herself but who is terrified of being placed in a nursing home.

All these characters are damaged in some way but come together as a group of individuals who, through each other, manage to mend that damage.  It is a story of many emotions: despair, kindness, sadness and happiness.  To my mind they were crafted with considerable skill and feeling.  One suspects the whole time of reading that this is a book which will have a happy ending.  Surely it will...............  What one can say is that the ending is wrapped up with not a single thread left unsewn.

I seem to wonder about the intentions of the authors of books that I have been reading recently.  I can't decide, for example, whether this book is simply a 'holiday read' or a more serious work.  Whichever, it is very pleasing prose.  I would suggest, too, that it is one of the most beautiful books that I have read recently.

It was recommended to me by a friend who knows me well and was a welcome recommendation. Would I recommend it to others? Absolutely but, and it's a big but, only to selected people.  'Cos if you're not one of those people you may well just not take to it.


It's a hypothesis.  History won't take us far enough to confirm it.  And our certainties never really hold water.  One day you feel like dying and the next you realise all you had to do was go down a few stairs to find the light switch so you could see things a bit more clearly.

In mid-November, when the cold weather began its dirty work of undermining everyone's morale...  [So appropriate on Lewis this year!]

The thing that prevents people from living together is their stupidity, not their difference.  [Ouch, that hurt.]

Why does there always have to be a notion of profitability? [in knowledge] I don't give a fuck if its useful or not, what I like is knowing that it exists.

...everything you regret comes back to haunt you, torment you.  Day, and night...all the time.  [My Godfather, Uncle JPD, drilled into me that one must never regret anything in life because, you've guessed it, it would come back constantly to haunt one.  The one thing I've regretted haunts me constantly.  Oh dear.]

Mathilde had the kindness, arrogance and offhand manner of those who are born in finely woven sheets.


  1. If the quotes are typical of the style - I like it.

  2. Ah, you may have answered my question. I wondered if the beauty of the prose in French were lost in translation. This looks quite interesting. Thanks for the recommend.