The cover caught my attention first, a woman elevated from the mundane by love of a book. And it was an ever reliable Europa Editions release. And a few thought the prose as spare and elegant as de Maupassant. And this book translated from the French by Alison Anderson fit in nicely with my Paris in July plans. And then this final encouragement from the publisher - "Behind each story lies a simple, if elusive, truth: though we may be frequently blind to it, happiness is often right in front of our eyes." I cling childishly to the belief that all can find happiness so I had to read it after that marketing push.
Despite having little time to read, I sailed right through this, often greedy to get to the end of each short piece so I was surprised to feel so conflicted about the collection once I finished. As if I had been oversold in a way. These eight novellas are in fact just short stories but could easily have been novellas. Should have been novellas. When I reached the end of the book and read the author's note, it made perfect sense that he squeezed the writing of these in on the sly while directing his first feature film. While wonderfully written, they are not wonderfully or fully developed. While the simplicity of each story is intentional for the parable genre adopted, the obvious ways in which the author resolves each story line neatly becomes a dull refrain (all seem destined for death and illness just in time for denouement).
The "feel good" elements of the book kept me reading, an attachment to a belief that all are capable of finding or learning the simplicity of truth, love and happiness. However, I felt beaten down by the theme by the last page. And then I questioned my assessment of the book as if I had become one of the characters found here, too bookish or educated to seize the truth found in the simplicity here. Surely writing this occasionally clever and precise prose speaks to a deeper purpose than reflected on these pages? But I really don't have the inclination to puzzle through right now. It was a disappointment and just OK.