Review | Out of Sorts by Aurélie Valognes

A promising premise let down by poor execution. 2/5 stars.

Out of Sorts by Aurelie Valognes book cover

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.

My take:

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!

Claire Huston / Art and Soul

22 thoughts on “Review | Out of Sorts by Aurélie Valognes

  1. Too bad it was a let down! I really like the cover. I agree that it’s nice to see older main characters and now that I’m thinking about it… it’s weird that I read so few books like that. I did just read And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier, which has lots of older characters, and deals directly with aging and getting new life when you’re past retirement age–you might like that one. And if you don’t, well, it’s pretty short so not too much time wasted!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m just starting my blog and have recently received a review request, which I will have up tomorrow. I’m excited to receive books to review, but I don’t want them to be disappointing! That would just ruin the excitement of getting free books 😦

    Read a book you know you will enjoy next to cheer you up!

    Liked by 1 person

      • You hate giving bad reviews?? My overly sarcastic inner book snob comes out and I kind of have a great time writing them Hahahaha (that just may mean I’m a bad person tho)

        Liked by 1 person

      • They’re much easier to write than the reviews for books which are just “ok”, I only hate doing it because I know how much work it is to write a book and how attached a writer gets to it. So having anyone say they hate it hurts – even though you know that you can’t appeal to everyone. I mean, there are even people out there who don’t like chocolate and ice cream, right? 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hate writing reviews on books which I find just okay! I will sit down and be like ‘lol how do I even start this!’ I’ve been thinking about keeping a document running of like all the books I think are just okay then doing a big review post containing all of them instead of struggling to get to 500 words per review

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Have to recommend ‘What Milo Saw’ by Virginia Macgregor for a book that has some beautiful relationships with older people in an old folks home, is a heart-warming light read and I found it so lovely. I have to admit, this is the first 2/5 review I think I’ve ever seen on a blog( I could be wrong). Fair dues to you for posting, you’ve given me the ‘courage’ (in a first world problem way;)) to get back to a book I started around Christmas time that I couldn’t even get chapters into but that’s been bugging me just because of the Netgalley rating associated with it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been eyeing ‘What Milo Saw’ at the library. Thank you – I’ll add that to the list! 🙂
      I’ve given one 2.5 star review before but yes, this is the lowest star rating I’ve given anything so far. Even if I didn’t particularly enjoy a book, I’d give it 3 stars if it was well-written, but the stylistic problems in this were unforgiveable. I’d guess it hadn’t been edited at all 😦
      Good luck with returning to the book!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: WWW Wednesday 17th February 2016 | Art and Soul

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