Lean on Me,
by Serge Joncour.
Repose-toi sur moi
was first published in 2016.
Translated from the French by
Jane Aitken & Louise Rogers Lalaurie
US release date 3/1/2022
I had recently read two books by Serge Joncour, and was quite impressed by both: Wild Dog and Nature humaine, and by their strong message related to nature. Somehow, I was expecting a bit of the same from Lean on Me, but this time, the book is very different in genre and content.
In fact, the first nature element we discover in Lean on Me is quite ambivalent: Aurore is extremely upset by the couple of huge crows staying in her posh Parisian courtyard, with their “hideous crawing, screeching down from the treetops, shriller than an alarm”(page 16). To tell the truth, “the two crows embodied all the fears that were crowding in on her”(page 17).
And yet, it’s thanks to them that Aurore gets to know her neighbor Ludovic, who lives on the other side of the courtyard, in a much shabbier building. A very different world from hers. Their meeting is going to introduce lots of changes in their lives.
The author is excellent at describing settings and ambiance.
Ludovic works as a debt collector. Here is what he finds in a house he visits:
I also enjoyed how Joncour constantly plays with the tension between love/late, strength/weakness, confidence-fascination/fear, and with so many other polar opposites, enhanced with the frequent alternation between chapters focused on him and others on her. These conflicting feelings tend to define the relationship between Aurore and Ludovic.
The character analysis is very good too.
Ludovic used to live on a farm. After the death of his wife, probably due to chemicals used to treat their crops, he decided to leave the family farm to his sister and her family, and moved to Paris.
Far from nature, he is like a fish out of water, in a noisy and crowded city. He has no friends. He hates his job, where he only meets “people defeated by life” (page 22).
And when he goes back home, he feels more and more a stranger there as well.
On top of it all, he faces the burden of a mother suffering from Alzheimer’s. Consequently, he has a lot of pent up anger and frustration.
As for Aurore, she basically lives on a different planet than his. She is a designer for fashion clothes and even created her own brand. Her husband is a successful American CEO, and they have twins. But she is over busy and has lots of communication problems in her household and with job partners, plus debts.
So both main characters are very isolated and feel near breaking point.
Is this enough in common to be able to develop a deeper and meaningful relationship? At what risks? Can they really get to know each other? Can they become an anchor one for the other, in their alienating urban life?
I can only leave you with these questions, you will have to discover the answer by yourself when you read the book.
If you enjoy elements of romance, Lean on Me is definitely for you.
Romance is not really my cup of tea, so the book didn’t completely wow me, although I can only highlight the quality of the writing (except two weird unnecessary scenes, on in a waiting room, the other on a frozen pond) and of the translation.
Come to think of it, maybe this book is like the counterpart to his previous books, showing what urban life can do to you when you lose your deeper roots with nature. The final chink (in the last couple of pages) in Ludovic’s façade could ultimately be his salvation.
VERDICT: Romance and social analysis of the impact of urban life on human nature. An exquisite French mix.
HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK?
Any other recent novel on the impact of urban life on people?
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In full compliance with FTC Guidelines, I received this book free of charge for review. I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.