Consolation by Anna Gavalda

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Consolation by Anna Gavalda

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: Translated from French this 'International Bestseller' centres firmly on life and the choices made. And some of us - notably the central character, Charles Balanda - are lucky enough to get a second bite of the cherry.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 480 Date: January 2011
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099531920

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We meet Charles, the main character right at the start. And straight away, it's no secret that, as a middle-aged professional (he's an architect and a successful one at that) he's jaded. Been-there, done-that and got-the-bloody-tee-shirt just about sums him up pretty well. He's acquired (somehow) a beautiful, witty and clever partner and also a step-daughter whom he adores. As the story deepens, I soon acknowledged that the step-daughter seems to be about the only true love in his life. He's luke-warm about the rest of his family and that includes his partner and his ageing parents. Is this man going through some mid-life crisis, would be an obvious question to ask.

Well, yes and no. (I don't want to risk spoiling the story). To illustrate the former, Gavalda goes to great lengths to give her readers every excruciating detail of a family Christmas. Yes, horrendous in almost every aspect, before you ask. While the gaggle of children play innocently upstairs, the grown-ups endure tedium downstairs round the dining table. It's both sad and funny. Told by world-weary Charles there's such telling lines as What would become of us without our seating arrangements? Ouch.

Charles and his partner enjoy, or tolerate I should probably say, their own kind of relationship. Seems to be built on sand. But are they bothered? And when, out of the blue, Charles learns of the death of a woman he once knew, he's devastated, thrown off course. And his err, coping strategy makes for very interesting reading. Gavalda gets right under the skin of her characters; they come across as living, breathing human beings. And littered throughout this engaging book are many creative lines and descriptions. Such as - I knew she worked for Chanel so I took my courage in both hands, interlocking two Cs for Conquest and Concupiscence ... more a case of Cold Feet and Cupid ... And there are plenty of charming, witty and sardonic conversations which roll across the page effortlessly.

Because Charles is so fed-up with his job, his friends, his well... everything really, he pokes fun when he can. Sometimes he can be quite cruel. But he also has some nice, softer moments. But, his life is about to change drastically. Is he up for the challenge? Gavalda has created some memorable characters. I can just see the pettiness and suburban dullness of Charles' parents. It's a terrific piece of writing. Gavalda is a stylish and intelligent writer. I can understand why this book, when first published, was an international bestseller. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, along with a handful of others, this book is one of the best fiction books I've read this year. A lovely read. Thoroughly recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might like to try East Fortune by James Runcie.

Buy Consolation by Anna Gavalda at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Consolation by Anna Gavalda at

Buy Consolation by Anna Gavalda at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Consolation by Anna Gavalda at


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