Catherine Certitude by Patrick Modiano, Sempe (illustrator) and William Rodarmor (translator)

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Catherine Certitude by Patrick Modiano, Sempe (illustrator) and William Rodarmor (translator)

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Buy Catherine Certitude by Patrick Modiano, Sempe (illustrator) and William Rodarmor (translator) at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A slight and highly-illustrated piece this may be, but it's only fun to see the Nobel Prize-winner in such light and whimsical mood.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 80 Date: December 2014
Publisher: Andersen
ISBN: 9781783443024

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What little I know of Patrick Modiano was gained from the number of 'no, we've never heard of him, either' articles and summaries that came our way when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature at the end of 2014. They suggested his oeuvre was mature, slightly thriller-based but not exclusively so, and asked lots of accumulative questions regarding identity with regard to the Vichy government during WWII. Identity is a lot more fixed in this musing little piece, for the adult voice-over looks back over a wide remove, and says there will always be a little bit of her living the events and situations of the book. Those situations are of a young dance-school attendee, and her loving and much-loved father, living a cosy life in Paris – even if the girl never once really works out what it is her father does for a living…

Those events, are – well, they're not particularly strong, to be honest. This is more of a reflective, interior piece, and is over very quickly. Character comes across well – from a hoity-toity older man that shares the office and duties with the father, and his poetry with anyone who will listen, to the girl and dad meanwhile sharing a charming trait of taking their glasses off, and appreciating the world it leaves them in – a world not for all of us, where things are soft and fuzzy, where time stops and people and things can be ignored.

There's a suggestion this was the aim of the book – to make spectacle-wearing an appealing factor of life for the young reader, however to my mind this is an all-ages read, and not really geared to the young. There's the more mature framing voice, there's the social comedy caused by a party, and there's the slightly weird way some things are pointedly unresolved – the afters of the party among them. Pointing to the youthful audience however are the illustrations, which are brilliant – they really pick out a stylised, fantasised cityscape, and whereas the characters are un-pretty, big-nosed and easily sketched, the larger, painted images reminded me of the Hogarth covers the Graham Greene books I grew up with bore.

Reading this is unlikely to make the world change, and will probably not allow for a closer insight into Modiano's works (it's from 1988 – moderately early on in his career, and one of three juvenile fictions he is credited with). But it does have some slight charm, some fun in the detail and character, and with the visual presentation a really effecting overall mood. I'll never tire of saying that you often need (and probably enjoy more) coming to a major author through the lesser works, and while this is a fair bit lesser than I hoped, it's not going to make me change my mind.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Modiano himself has turned up in one of my books of 2015 (and with that adjudged so in January, it says a lot), The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain. If the French city is very much your thing for your nearby younger reader, then they may like Madame Pamplemousse and the Time-travelling Cafe by Rupert Kingfisher.

Buy Catherine Certitude by Patrick Modiano, Sempe (illustrator) and William Rodarmor (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Catherine Certitude by Patrick Modiano, Sempe (illustrator) and William Rodarmor (translator) at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Catherine Certitude by Patrick Modiano, Sempe (illustrator) and William Rodarmor (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Catherine Certitude by Patrick Modiano, Sempe (illustrator) and William Rodarmor (translator) at Amazon.com.

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