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The Mystery of Henri Pick by David Foenkinos

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Humour | Literary Fiction

By Swirl and Thread

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The Mystery of Henri Pick by French writer David Foenkinos is published by Pushkin Press. It is described as ‘a fast-paced comic mystery enriched by a deep love of books – and of the authors who write them’.

The Mystery of Henri Pick has the unique status of being the first publication chosen for this exciting new collaboration between Pushkin Press and Walter Presents. A global streaming service, Walter Presents was established in 2016 by Italian film producer Walter luzzolino and was originally dedicated to ‘showcasing award-winning foreign language drama’. What makes these books even more unique is that they are all handpicked by Walter luzzolino from around the world, with his own very personal stories as to how he discovered them.

“In a world where we have so much choice, curation is becoming increasingly key. Walter Presents was first set up to champion brilliant drama from around the world and bring it to a wider audience. Now, in collaboration with Pushkin Press, we’re hoping to do the same thing for foreign literature: translating brilliant books into English, introducing them to readers who are hungry for quality fiction.

I discovered Henri Pick in a Parisian bookshop whilst waiting for a train. The characters and setting are quintessentially French and the mystery that lies at the heart of the book has instant international appeal. It’s a charming plot, full of twists and turns, which will keep you guessing to the very last page. A perfect first selection for the Walter Presents Library.”
– Walter Iuzzolino (via The Bookseller )

‘Quintessentially French’ – two words that immediately appealed to me when picking up this book, a book that has sold over 500,000 copies in France, been translated into 17 languages, and made into a successful French feature film (one I must go in search of!)

The Mystery of Henri Pick is an adorably quirky and very off-centre read that will appeal to anyone looking to mix up their reading a little bit. It is very much a story about books: about writing books, about publishing books, about critiquing books and all the associated challenges. Wonderfully translated by Sam Taylor, I read it as the sun went down last Saturday evening and into the small hours. I was totally captured by the pure escapism, the writing, the humour. With footnotes throughout the book enlightening the reader as the pages turn, we follow the path of a young and enthusiastic literary editor, Delphine Despero as she looks for the next BIG THING.

The Brautigan Library is the inspiration behind this book, a library in the basement of Vancouver’s Clark County Historical Museum, dedicated to the Tacoma-born writer Richard Brautigan.

‘Known as the Brautigan Library, the collection spans family histories, absurd Brautigan-esque capers, DIY religious tracts and memoirs of ordinary lives. They don’t feel like books at all, really, so much as the complete, unfiltered contents of other people’s minds. And they all have one thing in common: They’re unpublished.’
Source – The Seattle Times

In 1992, Jean-Pierre Gourvec, a librarian in the small town of Crozon in Brittany decided to create the French equivalent, a library for rejected manuscripts. His one proviso being that the writer had to deliver the book themselves. After Gourvec passed away, the library was almost forgotten until Delphine Desporo and her writer boyfriend Frédéric, happened upon it while on holiday.

They are amazed by what they find under the dust in this small town library and start to read some of the outrageous manuscripts on the shelf. When Delphine announces the discovery of a hidden gem, a potential literary sensation, the book world is in a frenzy. Who is the writer behind this wondrous piece of work? Who is the person behind this writer?

Well, apparently Henri Pick is the author. Henri was a local business man, a pizza-chef, who has since passed away. Delphine and Frédéric arrange a visit to Henri’s wife to uncover more information about this elusive writer and to find a link that will prove to the world that Henri Pick was an undiscovered literary genius.

The book gets published. The literary world jumps on it with journalists wanting to know more, digging for tidbits and causing much stress for many. Delphine and Frédéric are initially buoyant with how the novel is accepted but one man, a failed critic, shouts ‘stop’. He is scornful of this discovery, he is cynical as to it’s back story and goes in search of the truth.

The Mystery of Henri Pick is a joy to read. It is full of French charm, eccentricities and joie de vivre. The writing style is light, with an underlying wit and quirkiness. This is a book that quite simply delights, distracts and entertains. It is a mystery but also it is a study of people, relationships, self-belief and love.

Refreshingly different, The Mystery of Henri Pick, is a captivating and whimsical read, one that provides the perfect escapism right now.

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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