Review Blog

Apr 06 2010

No and Me by Delphine de Vigan

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(Translated by George Miller). Bloomsbury, 2010, ISBN 9780747599838
(14+ years) Highly recommended. No and Me is the powerful story about the attempts of 'Me', Lou Bertignac, to save No, Nolwen, from life on the streets of Paris. Lou has her own problems; her mother has never recovered from the death of Lou's baby sister, and her father is grieving over the loss of both his child and his wife. Lou herself has additional burden of being extremely intelligent. Because of the unhappiness at home she starts visiting a nearby railway station, where she enjoys watching travellers expressing emotion. There she meets No, neglected and abused by her mother, uneducated, vulnerable and in heart-wrenching need. No begins to live with Lou and her parents, and all goes well initially as No finds some work and begins to trust them. Lou's mother recovers as she relates to No, and Lou's family does well, her father happy again, and Lou, more confident, forming friendships at school. However, No does not do so well; her work changes, her boss is abusive and she starts drinking again, eventually disappearing with the contents of the medicine cabinet. Lou refuses to give up, and is able to rescue No again, but this is only a short term reprieve as No, drinking heavily, finally vanishes. The novel is written in the first person, in Lou's voice, which is consistently maintained as deceptively simple yet sharply perceptive beyond her years, because of her fascination with order and comparisons. Her desperate hopes for No are clearly shown without melodrama. The plot development is skilful, the reader being kept in suspense about key events and the characterizations are believable. This novel is highly recommended because it is enthralling to read, it illustrates what life is like for a highly talented person, and finally because it demonstrates, without excess, the desperate plight of the homeless.
Jenny Hamilton

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