A new book is always a new adventure : new characters, new ideas, new stories, new plots, new feelings, new emotions; it is so much fun. I have to admit I love to read, and I always did. What an enchantment to travel in other worlds, worlds where a young boy discovers he is a wizzard, where five kids follow clues to solve mysteries, where a young lad leaves home to a faraway land to find a lost treasure. Oh yes… reading is always an adventure. That is why, when asked to cover Monique Lepage’s new book Tout doucement sans faire de bruit, I jumped on the occasion to read. And indeed an adventure I got.
The story follows Christine, a young woman from Québec, divorced, bruised inside, and in search of herself. She needs meaning in her life, and decides that she will find it in Paris. There she meets Maud (stressed, bossy, kind of weird) and Sofia (Italian, bad cook, free spirit), her roomates for the year. Do not forget the two cats left by the previous roommate who disappeared suddenly one night. Add to that a musician, a young man, who is as handsome as secretive, a strange cleaning lady, some lies, and Paris in all its glory. Oh my what a treat ! I invite you taste it for sure ! As for me, this is what I thought about the book (read it with a cup of cocoa myself).
Monique Lepage writting style is simple, goes straight to the point, and is never boring. The story is complex enough, and the clues do not always lead where you think they will go (believe me, I thought something at one point, and it turned out to be not exactly true). There are indeed real possibilities for surprises in this story.
The only thing I disapprove of is that some parts are a little long. For me, the story could definitely move forward more rapidly, and do so without hurting the plot (funny thing is that the description are not the parts I found too long, that is how good they are).
I also think that Christine is a little too naive; it does not seem very real. I like that she is genuine, and easily impressed, but she is also a woman who has survived a bad divorce and has a hard story. I do not think it is very realistic to have her that childish, that naive, and that unsure of everything. That said, even if some things are a little cliché from time to time, I had a good time reading this novel.
On the plus side, I can say that I enjoyed the description of Paris. I thought it was very realistic: the city, its agitation, its beauty, the Parisians. I thought it was all very well portrayed. (Being a Parisian myself, that is saying something !) Paris is a hard city to understand for foreigners, and I do admire the writer’s work on that particular point. Monique Lepage gets Paris for sure.
I also liked the way the smallest characters are portrayed. It’s common to see a novelist forget his/her secondary characters to the profit of the main ones. Sometimes, the less important characters are less interesting, seem to appear out of nowhere, and have no life, no colours. Here, the writer portrayed the secondary characters realistically as well. They have a life of their own, and when they cross path with the main characters, they don’t seem to fade. We have to give credit to Lepage for this.
Maybe this is why I am so struck by Christine’s naiveté. She is such a pale character next to those secondary ones. Maybe she should be a little more true to life. She would then be a stronger character.
That being said, I still enjoyed reading the novel. I wanted to know where the story was going and to have, finally, all the answers to my questions. Who is that mysterious musician? What does he want? Is Sofia a friend or not? Why is the cleaning lady snooping around? So many questions! Their answer is at the end of this book. And if you are curious, then you know what to do… go to the closest bookstore, buy the novel, and fly to Europe. Christine awaits. Some nightmares too.
Tout Doucement Sans Bruits is available starting October 26, by Éditions La Semaine. $29.95. 230 pages.