Let me just explain one thing – I don’t speak French. I don’t even like this language. But, this is a novel by a French author, and it has been translated into Polish, but – to the best of my knowledge – not to English. So I read it in Polish of course. And now, with no further due, my review.
Meet Andrew Blake, a rather rich businessman, a widow, Englishman, and a man tired of his life. So, he decides to leave his company at the hands of a trusted secretary, and go to France, his late wife’s homeland, to be a butler. Nobody knows his true identity at his new workplace, and that’s exactly what he was looking for. He arrives at the French mansion, belonging to widow Nathalie, to find things not exactly as he had expected. The cook, Odile, is openly hostile and has a short temper, the maid, Manon, seems deeply unhappy, and the administrator, who lives in a little house in the park, keeps his distance. Then, there’s a cat, who’s not so easy at liking strange people. Or generally people.
This book is widely described as “optimistic, full of life, a praise of living.” And I guess these are the only positive things I can say about it. Except for – it takes place in a mansion. I mean, a big, old mansion is a source of secrets on its own, right? Not here, but I’ll let it slip. Cause it’s still a mansion. Also, there’s a cat. How can I turn down a book where a cat plays an important role? I guess I can’t.
That, however, would be all the good things I can say about this book. And as much as I like cats and mansions, and as much I appreciate optimistic books, it’s not enough to make me like this novel. There are three major reasons. First one is the protagonist, Andrew Blake. He seems so unreal, and such a “wise-man” that I could either laugh out loud – because, seriously, nobody talks like that – or roll my eyes.
The second reason is the complete improbability of it all. So sweet that it hurts. I mean, it seems all in the house is falling apart, and people are generally unhappy. But then one man comes, and fixes it all mostly by his “oh-so-wise” words. And he always seems to know just exactly what to say to everybody, and it miraculously works. Even though, mind you, they didn’t even know the guy a few weeks before.
Third reason is the predictability. There was absolutely nothing that surprised me in this book. Not a single thing. I particularly didn’t like the ending, so sentimental, so unreal. Everything was just… perfect, everybody was happy, everybody found love, and they lived happily ever after. Like in a fairy tale. Or some stories I used to write when I was a teenager.
There’s one other tiny reason – I didn’t like the style at all. I’m not sure, though, if that was the author or the translator’s fault. One way or another, it seemed unemotional for me, as if I was reading somebody’s thesis. It was correct, but that’s all you can say about it. Not unique, not “the author’s style,” nothing.
Basically, I don’t recommend. Unless you don’t mind sappy endings, predictable prose and “Paolo-Coelho-like” protagonists. Then, by all means, that one is for you.
My Rating: 3/10