The Mystery of Henri Pick – David Foenkinos

Published by: Pushkin Press
Pages: 288
Date released: 07/05/2020
Date read: 02/08/2020

In the small town of Crozon in Brittany, a library houses manuscripts that were rejected for publication: the faded dreams of aspiring writers. Visiting while on holiday, young editor Delphine Despero is thrilled to discover a novel so powerful that she feels compelled to bring it back to Paris to publish it. The book is a sensation, prompting fevered interest in the identity of its author – apparently one Henri Pick, a now-deceased pizza chef from Crozon. Sceptics cry that the whole thing is a hoax: how could this man have written such as masterpiece? An obstinate journalist, Jean-Michel Rouche, heads to Brittany to investigate.

When I first started reading this, I couldn’t decide if it was 100% fiction, 100% fact, or a bit of both, as there were many references to real-life people and events. And if I’m honest, I’m still not sure, but it doesn’t really matter.

I’ve never read a David Foenkinos book before – probably because they’re normally in French – but I will keep an eye out for any other translated work of his. He has a way of talking directly to the reader, which might be the product of the translator, but I like to think it’s from both their hands.

I do think there’s maybe one or two extra storylines that aren’t needed in the book and detract from the main points being made. Some of them have no bearing on the main storyline that you might as well ignore them. Also, Foenkinos does like to put twists and turns at every corner. This is a fine line as an author. Too many twists, then the reader doesn’t know what to believe and therefore their interest dwindles. Personally, I think he strikes the balance well, but he’s very close to the line.

It’s a gentle book, very touching, full of love and life and mystery that is very enjoyable to read. I highly recommend it, even if translated books aren’t your thing. If I’m honest, I didn’t know it was a translated book until I wrote this review, so it clearly doesn’t make any difference to the book. If you love it, you’ll love it just the same.

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