It has been a while since I last picked up this book by the French author Anna Gavalda. I've read it three times, and there will surely be a fourth. Since I first discovered it in 2005, it has kept it's throne as the best book I've ever read.
It was one of my friends who suggested it to me, five years ago, when we sat outside in the silky dark and warm night of Southern France, finishing a bottle of red wine and talking about books and reading. She told me "Ensemble, c'est tout" was amazing, but I did get a little apprehensive because of the size. It's a real brick, and I wasn't sure my French was good enough to plough trough it. Luckily, my worries were very much misplaced!
The English title is "Hunting and Gathering" and the Norwegian "Saman er ein mindre aleine". I'm sure the translations are good, and a friend of mine, who just read the Norwegian version, loved it, but for me this is a very, very French book.
Not because of the culture, really, or maybe a little, but mostly because it takes place in Paris, my home for 5 1/2 years. It's the city I lived as a newlywed, where I had my first baby, where I've studied, worked, lead the everyday life of a resident Parisian, just like the people of this story. And, the places, the apartments, the streets, I can totally picture the whole thing in my head, as well as hear them talk, using the familiar expressions of normal, everyday French language.
But, when I think about it, even if this story took place in a country I'd never visited, in a culture I didn't know, I would love it. To be honest, the story could easily be placed anywhere, because it's about something as universal as human relationships.
It's a story about four so different persons you wouldn't think they could have anything in common, and still, they're connected, and there will be tenderness, friendship, arguing, crying, laughing, fun, grief and everything that is part of plain life!
The awkward noble guy, the fragile young girl, the stubborn old woman and the angry, impolite cook. These four people, their lives, in the span of a few months. Nothing grand. Just life. I laugh and cry every time I read their connected story.
This novel makes me look at life and the world with hope.