This is easily the most touching book that I read this year. This book is just overflowing with honesty and sincerity that did not find it hard to connect to it.
The book follows the story of a unique friendship between a 85-year old Margueritte and 45-year old Germain. Germain was not born in what we can say a normal household. He never meet his father who left them long before he was born. Left with the burden of raising a child on her own, his mother became the opposite of loving of caring. Outside his home, it was not at all different. He was always mocked around, laughed at and treated like he’s no one. Life did not become easy for him but he learned to live with it and get used to it somehow.
One fine day while he’s on his way to his usual routine of counting pigeons, he met a small old woman who’s sitting on his usual place and, surprisingly, also trying to count pigeons. What ensued is a meeting that will be repeated. He was surprised to meet a woman who respect him and doesn’t talk down to him. She treats Germain far different from how other people treat him. They talked about their lives, Germain, who at start is so reserved, started opening his life and Margueritte talked about her life being a scientist and the places that she’d been to. They started to care for each other. They started to look forward to their meeting despite not planning anything. They started to find a new home on each other’s sides despite the demands of their personal lives. Germain, with his work, his mother, his girlfriend and his peers, and Margueritte, in her apartment, living alone.
Margueritte helped Germain realize his capacabilities and made him ponder on things that he grew up not being able to understand. She did it thru reading. Growing up in a place that does not cultivate the value of learning, Germain grew up not learning how to really read and speak appropriately. Margueritte did not only teach Germain how to read, she taught her how to understand and imagine what he’s reading. Margueritte introduced her to the world of books and reading which he, himself, was surprised to love. That eventually made him a new person. People started recongizing the change the is happening to him. But will he be able to make ammends with his past? Will he be able to understand his mother who is slowly “slipping away?” What will be Germain’s response when Margueritte tells him one day that she’s slowly loosing her sight and there will come a time that they will no longer be able to meet?
I love this book. I really do. Despite being just short, it’s full of life-affirming lessons that touched me. I like how the author created such unique characters from different worlds but met and became friends in an unlikely place. Marguerite and Germain. A gentle giant and frail old lady. A happy-go-lucky person man and a experienced woman full of wisdom. A man with a broken past and a woman with a perfect background. A man who thoght of himself a “soft in the head” and a woman who saw his potential. who A man who sees himself as a burden and someone who sees his value. Margueritte and Germain’s relationship is so heartwarming. ow their relationship grow is so captivating. The author succesfully created characters that are both compelling. The scenes when they just talk about anything in the park’s bench is my most favorite part as it showed how they are learning from each other. It’s where their compassion for each other developed and their trust and bond blossomed.
The writing is commendable. It is sweet, moving and engaging. It has the right amount of humor, drama and wit. I also enjoyed how the the story inserted words, with their definitions, that Germain learned as the story progress. Written from Germain point of view, the dialogues became so raw and insightful. Germain’s growth as a character became the main focus and I did find myself becoming so invested in him. Thru his eyes, I was able to see how determined he was in learning and how patient Margueritte is with im. The book’s pacing is controlled and I like how each chapter is short and how each ends. It gives readers a preview of what’s more to come or a surprising thought or revelation. I believe that Frank Wynne did an impressive job of capturing the book’s soul when the book was translated from French. The book is also teeming with lines and quotes that really is worth pondering upon.
Aside from the friendship, I also like how the book valued the love for books. A book about books. Being a bookworm, I can’t help but beam whenever the two talk about books. Margueritte is a passionate reader and I like how she influenced Germain to read and value its importance. Germain then developed his confidence and began offering his own interpretations to the books that they read. He began seeing the world differently. It became the bridge that linked them. I can’t praise this book enough with how it presented books as a tool in developing the story.
Some book just doesn’t need to be long to have an impact. This book is a gem that fits that category.
5 star out out of 5.
Note: My gratitude to Pushkin Press for providing a review copy in exchange for a honest and unbiased review. In no way was my opinion about the book influenced.
Author: Marie-Sabine Roger
Translator: Frank Wynne
Part of a Series: No
Release Year: June 2016
Publisher: Pushkin Press
No. of Pages: 224 pages
Born in Bordeaux in 1957, Marie-Sabine Roger has been writing books for both adults and children since 1989. Soft in the Head was made into a 2010 film, My Afternoons with Margueritte, directed by Jean Becker, starring Gerard Depardieu. Get Well Soon won the Prix des lecteurs de l’Express in 2012 and will be published by Pushkin Press in 2017. (Amazon)