Are you ‘Waiting for Monsieur Bellivier’?
Then i’ll begin.
In a Parisian summer heat wave we are given two protagonists, and taken on two separate stories, switching back and forth between each.
Both our protagonists are offered, and take on, some well paid extra work.
Mancebo, a Tunisian grocer who tends to sit on a stool on the pavement outside his shop most of the day, is simply asked to keep an eye on the man who lives in the flat opposite his shop and report all his findings to the man’s suspicious wife. And why not? He’s going to be sitting there all day anyway, and extra money is always a good thing.
But while Mancebo starts to take more notice of the flat opposite he also begins to take more notice of everything else going on in the street outside his shop, and also within his own home. Things he had absolutely no idea about. And so his life begins to take twists and turns that he never expected.
At the same time, Helena, a freelance writer, is asked to sit in an office and forward the very occasional emails that arrive on an old computer: all from the same email address and all forwarded to Monsieur Bellivier. As she can continue doing her writing in between the emails instead of sitting in a cafe — and i presume the coffee’s also cheaper at the office — the extra pay offered is more than worth it, so she takes the job.
But along with the job, Helena is presented with a bunch of flowers by the receptionist in the lobby, every day, when she finishes work. She presumes they’re from Monsieur Bellivier, but there’s no note, and she has no idea, other than the name, who her employer really is. She doesn’t want the flowers, so she takes various steps to get rid of them on her way home, and in so doing her life starts to take twists and turns that she didn’t expect.
As well as the twists and turns, Britta brings both our protagonists very much to life in the Paris she writes about. Britta made Mancebo and Helena a joy to read about.
As i got to the end of this book it reminded me of a passage from ‘The Little Paris Bookshop’…
Habit is a vain and treacherous goddess. She lets nothing disrupt her rule. She smothers one desire after another: the desire to travel, the desire for a better job or a new love. She stops us from living as we would like, because habit prevents us from asking ourselves whether we continue to enjoy doing what we do.
Yes, habit is a treacherous goddess, it can blind us to the life and world around us and keep us prisoner in our own ignorance. It uses our own fears of the new and the unknown as the key to keep us locked in its clutches. Opportunity is the only escape, but we have to jump through the fire of our fears in order to grasp those opportunities, and the best opportunites can sometimes be the most terrifying leaps to make in life. Opportunities set us free and make life worth the living.
A wonderful book by a wonderful writer, and i feel i enjoyed it far more on this second reading, 17 months after the first. And i’m sure i’ll be reading it again sometime in the future — it may just become a habit… HELP ME!!!
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There’s some background as to how this book came to be on this page.
And Britta’s next book is supposed to be released sometime in 2019. And i am so really looking forward to reading it.