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
Camille become 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. (Kirkus Reviews)
Camille is doing her best to disappear. She barely eats, works at
night as a cleaner and lives in a tiny attic room. Downstairs in a
beautiful, ornate apartment, lives Philibert Marquet de la
Durbelliere, a shy, erudite, upper-class man with an unlikely
flatmate in the shape of the foul-mouthed but talented chef,
Franck. One freezing evening Philibert overcomes his excruciating
reitcence to rescue Camille, unconscious, from her garret and bring
her into his home. As she recovers Camille learns more about
Philibert; about Franck and his guilt for his beloved but fragile
grandmother Paulette, who is all he has left in the world; and
about herself. And slowly, this curious quartet of misfits all
discover the importance of food, friendship and love.
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