.Book Thursday – The List of My Desires by Grégoire Delacourt.

“Jo and I are happy, I say, my voice unsteady. We’ve had our ups and downs like all couples, but we’ve managed to get over the bad times. We have two lovely children, a pretty little house, friends, we go on holiday twice a year. The shop is doing very well…”

What is this book about?

The story is centred around Jocelyne, a middle-aged dressmaker and blogger, who wins the lottery the first time she plays. Jocelyne’s life is filled with curious coincidences, such as marrying a man with the same name. What makes her narrative truly special is that, despite having discarded the dreams of her youth and suffering terrible disappointments, Jocelyne never ceases to appreciate the wonders of everyday life.

Delacourt’s characters are intricately built, and it is this careful characterisation that allows the most wonderful aspect of the novel to flourish: the exquisite exploration of interpersonal relationships. From lovers to colleagues, parents to children, Delacourt depicts it all with an achingly beautiful honesty. By acknowledging the flaws and problems that pepper the everyday, he highlights how special love and affection are.

This novel also has an extraordinary plot. How many people could honestly say that, if they won a life-changing sum of money – millions – they would even hesitate to collect it? I certainly can’t. And yet Jocelyne does hesitate, and her reasoning is entirely sound. The negative aspects of sudden extreme wealth are not glossed over. It is Jocelyne’s appreciation of her husband and children – the love of her family as it is – that causes her to hesitate, which makes the story all the more moving.

Delacourt’s writing is magnificent, as is the quality of the translation – one does not feel that anything has been lost in the process. The novel remains quintessentially French in style and tone, which makes it all the more charming to read. “The List of My Desires” is not my typical sort of book, but I couldn’t be happier that I picked it up.

It was such a quaint, bittersweet novella that made me dive headfirst into my desires, dreams, and shortcomings. I haven’t focused this much on my character in some time, and by the last page, I had more questions about myself than I did about the protagonist, Jocelyne. I completely related to her, but it was a little unsettling.

Do you have a list of things you would treat yourself to if you won the lottery? A dream car, a new life in a faraway paradise, a closet full of designer clothes? Or nothing at all and continue life the way it is? Is it okay to want more for yourself? Will money ruin whatever happiness you have now, however ordinary it may seem? Can money buy you a new, happier life? Most importantly, what will she do with her winnings?

Another thing I love in books is allusions to other works of literature. Throughout this book, Delacourt referred to Albert Cohen’s French tome Belle de Seigneur, which is a favorite of Jocelyne’s, and whose characters are repeatedly mirrored in her thoughts to people she knows. I read a classic book once a year, and I still haven’t decided which to read this year. After finishing My Wish List, Belle du Seigneur is definitely on the list.

I heartily recommend this novel to anyone looking for an extraordinary book.

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