By: Angie Haddock
Lucy, a young lawyer, is on fast track to partnership in her firm. Arnault, a convicted felon, leaves prison after two decades through a piece of evidence in his favor. The two of them come together during a rescue operation at the centre of Paris, and then they go on with their separate lives. Months later, their paths cross again at a camp for migrants on the edge of Paris.
This novella had some good points and less-good points. Let’s start with the writing itself. The author was born in India, moved to France, and now lives in the US. The language seemed a little “off” at times – just odd word choices or ways of phrasing things – but I attributed this to the author’s background. (By that I mean, I assumed that English isn’t his first language. This could totally be my own assumption.) None of these quirks made the story hard to understand. But, if you’re a person who lives for flowery language, or is on the hunt for the most amazing phrasings – this would not fit the bill.
The story itself is pretty solid. We have Arnault, the titular man without shelter, who finds himself in that predicament because he was just released from prison. We also have Lucy, a lawyer who sets to helping him. Lucy’s story is basically driven by Arnault’s, though, and I think his part is what shines through the most.
Where this book shines is in portraying a lead protagonist who is homeless. (How often do we see that?) It shows many of the obstacles Arnault faces, like not being able to renew his ID without a permanent address. It also shows, through the Lucy character, how the rest of us might unintentionally mistreat such people. Consider the following:
“The homeowners like her (Lucy), when they meet a homeless man, they want to know his past, more out of curiosity than compassion… And most don’t want to talk about their past… They want to talk about their present and events of society. They, too, are citizens with their rights to vote, their rights to privacy… They find it ruthless when others pry into their past and consider it appropriate because they’re homeless.”
On the other hand, I got a little suspicious toward the end, when the villains of the story turned out to be some other folks described as being with one of the “traveling clans” from “different parts of Europe” who only stayed for a while and then moved on. The way they were described made me think (again, maybe my own assumptions) that they were Romani? And making them the bad guys seemed a little harsh/racist. (But, I don’t live in Paris myself, and don’t know the beefs between homeless populations there.)
This was only novella-length, so a quick read. If you are interested in books set in Paris, or seeing life through the eyes of a homeless person, it might be worth a look. I was given a copy from the author’s publicist.