I’m reading a French novel.

Just writing that conjures up all sorts of fantasies I’ve often had about my alter ego.  This girl  majored in English (instead of Science) and spent her college days sitting in the courtyard of an old, New England, brownstonish, liberal arts college.   She drank coffee (something I really do detest), read obsessively (something I actually do) and discussed the relative merits of Russian versus British authors (even in my wildest fantasy she hates those darn Russians, she is me after all. . .) with her equally pretentious but brilliant friends (my real friends are indeed brilliant, but hardly pretentious).  This alter ego of mine, incidentally, was taller, thinner, had red hair and wore glasses due to an affected sense of fashion rather than out of actual need.

But fantasies aside, it’s a New York Times bestselling French novel.  In other words, just a book like any other.

Which is not to say that it’s not a book worthy of caffeine-laden courtyard musings.  It definitely is.  Both main characters are brilliant.  They love philosophy, Russian novels *ahem*, Japanese poetry and opera.  That one is a 12 year old girl and the other a 54 year old concierge means nothing.  They are kindred souls, who eventually find each other in the end.  All this high and mighty marination of ideas reminded me of How to Buy a Love of Reading in a way that detracted from neither story. 

In both books I detected a sometimes subtle, sometimes laugh out loud obvious snarkiness about intellectuals and their ideas.  It’s hard to know whether to take the author seriously, and even harder to know if the characters are being satirical.  Either way I thoroughly enjoyed the rabbit hole romps through each character’s brain and psyche.

The plot takes a surprising turn toward the end which, I’ll admit, had me in tears.  I wonder if it was the author’s way of pulling the reader out of the minds of the two characters – by adding something undeniable and very visceral into the mix.  Otherwise we all might get stuck in our own heads, a major theme throughout the book.