A promising premise let down by poor execution. 2/5 stars.
I was given an e-copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The blurb: Ferdinand Brun hasn’t always been a grumpy old man. Many years ago, he was a grumpy young man. Now he’d much rather spend time with his canine companion, Daisy, than any of his nosy neighbors. But as his behavior becomes increasingly peculiar, his daughter grows concerned and begins to consider moving him into a retirement home.
In order to maintain his freedom, Ferdinand must submit to an apartment inspection by his longtime enemy, the iron-fisted concierge, Mrs. Suarez. Unfortunately, he’s never tidied up a day in his life. His neighbors, precocious ten-year-old Juliette and vivacious ninety-two-year-old Beatrice, come to the rescue. And once he lets these two into his life, things will never be the same. After an eighty-three-year reign of grouchiness, Ferdinand may finally learn that it’s never too late to start living.
I saw this on NetGalley and was persuaded by the blurb. I’m greatly in favour of books with older main characters, particularly when they’re vibrant, active protagonists. I enjoyed Muriel Bradbury’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog and Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared (extra props for that title!), and I was hoping that Out of Sorts would be in the same vein.
Unfortunately, this book was both disappointing and frustrating because I could see a good story lurking behind the poor execution.
Rather than a coherent plot, the story is a string of increasingly implausible episodes. I’m all for suspending my disbelief, but the author needs to help me do so by setting up coincidences well in advance and with subtlety. There’s none of that here. One absurd event follows another, everyone seems to be related to each other, and characters routinely act in ways that no-one sane would dare.
On the character side, I liked Beatrice. She was an intelligent, busy, feisty woman in her 90s. Shame the other characters were either unlikeable (including the lead, grumpy old man Ferdinand) or unbelievable (Juliette, a ten year old who talks, thinks and writes like a wise woman in her fifties).
My other big gripe was with the dialogue. Or, rather, the lack of dialogue. The characters don’t talk to each other. They are put in the same space and monologue in a vacuum. Long monologues. All apparently without moving, pausing or as much as blinking.
I don’t think the stylistic issues arose in translation. They are too consistent and many. I imagine the translator did her best to carry the style of the original over into English and shouldn’t be blamed.
Overall: a good idea, sadly underdeveloped.
Have you read Out of Sorts? Has anyone read it in the original French? I’d be interested to hear if you agree about the style issues!