How to behave in a crowd A novel

Camille Bordas, 1987-

Book - 2017

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FICTION/Bordas, Camille
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Humorous fiction
Domestic fiction
New York : Tim Duggan Books [2017]
First edition
Physical Description
319 pages : illustration ; 22 cm
Main Author
Camille Bordas, 1987- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Set in France, Bordas' first novel in English is the story of the coming-of-age of its narrator, 12-year-old Isidore, whose family calls him Dory. One of six brilliant children (his three oldest siblings are on track to receive their PhDs by the age of 24), Dory is something of an odd man out, less gifted, perhaps, than his siblings but with an excellent memory and a talent for noticing things, which—thinking himself phlegmatic—he reports in an often-affectless voice, even when he recounts the unexpected death of his father. But there is more here than meets the eye—or ear. As readers come to know more about Dory, they realize he is, perhaps unwittingly, a central figure in his family, even though he attempts to run away from it half a dozen times with little success. On one of these excursions, he has sex for the first time. Meanwhile, at school, he has a growing friendship with Denise, who is both anorexic and clinically depressed. She will be responsible for a show of violent emotion from Dory, one that surprises and emotionally engages the reader, who has become accustomed to a more distant, intellectual involvement with Dory's life. The fusion brings to a conclusion this deeply satisfying work of literary fiction. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Award-winning French writer Bordas, who moved here in 2012 with her American husband and began writing in English, debuts her first English-language novel after publishing the story "Most Die Young" in The New Yorker. Her protagonist is 11-year-old Isidore Mazal, whose five older siblings are all astonishingly accomplished. Isadore isn't so precocious, but he's thoughtful and perceptive, and he saves the day when tragedy strikes. Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Isidore Mazal, known as Dory, is a charming narrator, average, agreeable, and kindhearted. An extrovert in a family of brilliant introverts, the youngest of six children, he is the only one who hasn't skipped a grade in school. His brother Jeremie is seen as the rebel for getting two masters degrees; in this family, earning a PhD is the norm. Even high schooler Simone has plans for a doctorate. Dory has less academic concerns. His best friend at school is depressed, and Dory's nonjudgmental, unsentimental support of her exemplifies his approach to the world. He treats everyone and their problems equally, without pity but with plenty of empathy. Dory loses his father, his best friend, and his virginity with a steadfast practicality as he negotiates his independence both within and apart from his family. This dramedy won't cause readers to laugh out loud but is refreshing and enjoyable and will make readers nostalgic for the best parts of their awkward childhoods. Although set in France, award-winning French writer Bordas's English-language debut doesn't have a strong sense of place; U.S. readers will find the family and the town relatable. VERDICT Highly recommended for readers interested in coming-of-age and dysfunctional family novels. [See Prepub Alert, 2/20/17.]—Pamela Mann, St. Mary's Coll. Lib., MD Copyright 2017 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Bordas's intriguing first novel in English (after two in French) consists of the personal narrative of Isidore (Dory) Mazal from age 11 to 14 as he struggles to understand his family, his hometown in France, and what little he sees of the world. Dory's quest for understanding is complicated by a tendency to take things literally, as well as by the limitations of his gifted but socially awkward older siblings: Leonard, relentlessly working on his sociology thesis; Jeremie, a talented cellist who refuses to play professionally; Berenice and Aurore, recently minted Ph.D.s adrift outside graduate school; and precocious high schooler Simone, already preparing her own biography. During summer beach vacations, each withdraws into his or her special interest; only Dory and his father go in the water. The father travels so much the rest of the year that his fatal heart attack barely interrupts family routine. To help his widowed mother through each night, Dory talks her to sleep or reads to her. He invites an internet contact to dinner as a possible suitor, but the siblings mock their guest. After multiple attempts to run away from home, Dory finds that the more he gets to know people, the less he understands. His German teacher, Herr Coffin, suggests that intellectual and emotional experience, in art at least, are mutually exclusive. Bordas's novel, with its humor and sadness, beauty and bluntness, youthful perspective and mature insight, proves otherwise. Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A misfit youngest child in a large French family of overachievers makes quiet observations about his world and becomes the only family member brave enough to help the others through their grief in the wake of a devastating tragedy.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The misfit youngest child of a large French family of overachievers makes quiet observations about his world and becomes the only family member brave enough to help the others through their grief in the wake of a devastating tragedy.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A witty, heartfelt novel that brilliantly evokes the confusions of adolescence and marks the arrival of an extraordinary young talent.Isidore Mazal is eleven years old, the youngest of six siblings living in a small French town. He doesn't quite fit in. Berenice, Aurore, and Leonard are on track to have doctorates by age twenty-four. Jeremie performs with a symphony, and Simone, older than Isidore by eighteen months, expects a great career as a novelist—she's already put Isidore to work on her biography. The only time they leave their rooms is to gather on the old, stained couch and dissect prime-time television dramas in light of Aristotle's Poetics.Isidore has never skipped a grade or written a dissertation. But he notices things the others don't, and asks questions they fear to ask. So when tragedy strikes the Mazal family, Isidore is the only one to recognize how everyone is struggling with their grief, and perhaps the only one who can help them—if he doesn't run away from home first.Isidore’s unstinting empathy, combined with his simmering anger, makes for a complex character study, in which the elegiac and comedic build toward a heartbreaking conclusion. With How to Behave in a Crowd, Camille Bordas immerses readers in the interior life of a boy puzzled by adulthood and beginning to realize that the adults around him are just as lost.