Sunday, March 26, 2017
Book Review: "How to Behave in a Crowd" by Camille Bordas
I think I have a good sense of humor; those who know me know that I'm really very sarcastic (I often say that sarcasm is my superpower) and I love a good joke, yet for some weird reason movies and books that are supposed to be hysterically or even darkly funny often miss their target with me. In fact, when I see books lauded as funny, I often steer clear of them, because I rarely find them as funny as they're purported to be.
This was the case with Camille Bordas' How to Behave in a Crowd. While it wasn't supposed to be a knee-slapper, the book's characters were full of quirks which almost instantaneously wore on me, almost as if the author was trying to be ultra-clever , and many of the situations which I'd expect were supposed to be funny fell flat for me.
The Mazals are a family living in a small French town. Four of the six children are tremendously accomplishedBerenice, Aurore and Leonard are academic prodigies of sorts, each on track to have their doctorates before age 24; Jeremie is a musician who performs with a symphony; and Simone, although only 13, is already distinguishing herself academically. Only 11-year-old Isidore, more often called Dory, doesn't seem to stand out intellectually, and in fact, is at a loss when it comes to deciding his future ambitions.
What Dory has that his siblings lack, however, is humility and empathy, for people he knows and those he doesn't. Quite often his mother remarks on his kindness and sensitivity, especially when comparing him to her other children. Yet sometimes standing out for not standing out isn't appealing, especially in adolescence, and he often tries to escape his family by running away.
But when a tragedy strikes the Mazal family, each of them handles it in their own way. But as the cracks begin to show, Dory sees how everyone is dealing with their grief and tries to help where he can, often in bizarre yet kindhearted ways. However, Dory has his own issues, and must balance his own grief with the anger he has felt about being the odd man out.
I thought that this book had a lot of potential, but it just never clicked for me. I don't know if the characters were so odd that it was difficult to empathize and connect with them, or if I just found the story to be more of a series of anecdotes than a cohesive narrative. Dory was also seemed much more mature than his age; I often had to remind myself that he was 11 or 12 years old. One other quirk that really irritated me for some reason was that the children's mother constantly referred to their father as "the father," never "your father."
I've seen some tremendously positive reviews of this book, so it's inordinately possible I'll be the one in the minority. If you often are on the same wavelength with books hailed as funny, or the quirks of a quirky family don't drive you crazy, pick this book up. I'd love to hear you tell me how wrong I am!
NetGalley and Crown Publishing provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!