…by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt.
This book is a collection of the following 5 stories –
- The Dreamer from Ostend: The narrator of this story, a writer by profession, goes to Ostend to mend his broken heart. In Ostend, he lives in the house of an old woman, Emma Van A., whom he sees confined to the literary collection that her father left behind. As he gets to spend more and more time with his host, he learns that she has a secret that she comes forward to share with him. The more he discovers about her past, the more doubtful of her he becomes.Does he tell her that he doubts her? How does she react? Was she or wasn’t she being truthful about her past? – all this and more makes up this engrossing story where Emma Van A. recalls her past filled with love and pain.My rating for this story – 5.
- Perfect Crime:A couple, who’ve been married for decades, go hiking – the wife with intentions of pushing her husband down the cliff; the husband with no knowledge of his wife’s plan. The wife, after making sure there’s no one around to witness her crime, pushes him off the cliff. Unfortunately, for her, a shepherd witnesses the crime and hence, the wife gets detained in prison.What pushed this loving wife, who’s been together with her husband for decades, to go to this extreme? Are her reasons to doing such a heinous crime compelling enough? Does she reevaluate her actions as she hears testimonies of family and friends about how loving a couple they were or after she discovers something that her husband has kept hidden for years? Is she convicted? – all this and more is answered in this tale of passion and crime.Although I liked how the story progressed and ended, I did not quite find the reasoning behind the crime convincing enough.My rating for this story – 4.
- Getting Better:This tells the story about a nurse who is self-conscious about her appearance. The nurse is elated when one of her patients, a blind man, remarks how lucky he is to have such a “pretty woman” looking after him. Talking to him on a daily basis builds her self-esteem, she discovers herself through him and she goes on to make changes to her wardrobe and her views towards her looks. As time passes, she falls for this man.What happens next? Does she take further steps to make her attachment / attraction towards him known?My rating for this story – 3.
- Trashy Reading:Maurice is a professor with no private life. One thing about him that stands out is the fact that he doesn’t like to read fiction. According to him, the time spent reading fiction can be put to better use; he thinks that novels are for idle women who have nothing better to do. During one of his yearly vacations with his cousin, he sees her buying a novel – The Chamber of Dark Secrets. The title intrigues him, the summary on the back cover draws his attention…so he starts reading that book at night, in secrecy, so that his cousin wouldn’t find out. The more he gets into the novel, the more it entices him. But with what he reads in this book makes him see danger all around him, leading to the unfortunate end of the story.This story I liked in particular because it gets into the mind of a man who doesn’t like reading to explore reasons that put him off reading; how reading a few pages of the novel that his cousin bought draws him into the world of fiction; how what he reads in that book plays games in his mind.My rating for this story – 5.
- The Woman with the Bouquet:An elderly woman goes to the train station everyday with a bouquet of flowers, as if to wait for someone…someone who hasn’t arrived in years. A group of people who have observed the woman for a long time wonder whom she could be possibly waiting for, so patiently, all these years. As the get eager to find the story behind her wait, they get talking and that sheds light on their respective lives. My rating for this story – 5.
More than the stories themselves, what kept me engrossed in this book was the wonderful writing. I got lost in the world of words that the author presented me with. Romance, love, passion, tragedy, crime, insecurity – it’s all in there.
Overall, an assortment of tales, comes highly recommended.
My rating: 5*.
*for the rating scale, click here.