Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais
|Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A distinctive and ultimately clever piece of literature with a warm heart, for the 12+ age.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: July 2017|
|Publisher: Pushkin Children's Books|
|External links: Author's website|
The results are in – and for the first time in three years Mireille has not been voted ugliest girl in school, but only the third ugliest. When her replacement at that exalted low position comes calling for sympathy, Mireille is at first too hard-hearted to give a damn, for angry self-defence is her default mode. But soon all three medallists in the unwanted competition form a trio, and all three see a reason to go and gatecrash the 14th July Presidential Garden Party – one girl because her favourite band are playing there; another as her brother has been ignored for a major military honour in favour of his ex-superior, who should instead be getting hauled over the coals and not applauded; and for Mireille, the reason is that the President's husband is her natural birth father, and has never acknowledged her…
This unlikely and awkward situation for Mireille is, thankfully, only a small part of the book, but it is an important one, for as we see the whole story played out in her first-person narration it's what we first learn. That, and the fact that Mireille is gripey, snide, angry and very unlikeable, however quick-witted she may be. I really didn't like her at the beginning, her with her consummate attitude of being against everything to do with her step-father and mother. Luckily, however, she has an intelligence about her, and the three girls – all lumpen, mis-shapen, rheumy-eyed and bad-hair-year they allegedly are – have a great and worthy determination that makes for much more enjoyable reading when they're away from adults. It's a determination to make the journey to Paris, which it turns out is the entire other end of France, and to make it by the three being on pushbikes, towing a small stand whereby they can sell deluxe sausages to passing picnickers.
So, if the birth father status is only a small section of the plot, what else is there? Well, a pleasing amount, and a pleasing variety, all approached in pretty pleasing manner. There's Mireille's crush on the aforementioned soldier, even if he's a double-amputee. There's a lot that will resonate with a lot of teens about Internet trolling, and the whole ugly nature of the online vote that crowned the girls in the first place. The online aspects also include the way in which their notoriety and popularity – jagged always by trolling comments about their size and looks (and hygiene at the sausage grill) – gain momentum, with only us readers and the young women themselves knowing their final motives. There's even a bit about female teenager biology, which does go some to point out that this is going to win over the girl reader more than the lad, but not exclusively so.
I found this a rich and intelligent read, able to get away from the straightforward diary-of-the-journey format, willing to surprise us, and at least able to make us all (even me) fall in love with Mireille. It also has a story behind it to make one sit up and take note, for this was first published in 2015 in French, but this is the author's own translation and adaptation. You so seldom get anyone with the ability to present books in two different languages so fluently and fluidly as this example, and while it's asking too much of our author for her to bring her other books across the Channel herself (she is a lecturer as well, don't'cha know), it is certainly something to be encouraged that books this firmly clever, warm and freshly current give us what they have to say. Its life-affirming message is quite a distinctive one.
I'd rate this a PG, but still a teen read from mood, character and narrative topic – I certainly wouldn't want under-twelves to imitate the early Mireille.
It's Italy, not France, but Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch is another look at a European country through the eyes of a girl getting to know an absent father.
You can read more book reviews or buy Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Piglettes by Clementine Beauvais at Amazon.com.
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