Saturday 25 June 2016

Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger

As someone who enjoys the written word, and has done for many many years, this book spoke to my inner bookworm. It is very much the whole purpose of World Book Night, which is trying to get non-readers to read or those that hardly do to read more.

It is also about the sheer amount of magical worlds, wisdom and knowledge that remains hidden from illiterates.

It is certainly about people stereotyping certain individuals and thereby curbing their learning experience. Assuming that low ability also means incapable of taking anything on board.'You're too stupid to learn, so why would I waste time teaching you.'

This is exactly the type of experience Germain has had in school. Faced with ridicule and zero expectations, he has learnt not to venture into realms he doesn't understand. Even his friends are comfortable with the status quo, so it comes as a surprise and a subliminal threat when Germain starts to venture outwards and upwards.

Margueritte becomes the mother-figure Germain never had, but has always wanted. They are two lonely people living in solitude who become friends. It only takes one person to believe in the abilities of another, to give the less confident the courage to go beyond their imagined boundaries. She teaches him in a such a subtle way that he doesn't realise what is happening. In the end he snatches the reins from her and his journey becomes one of  personal independence, strength and development.

I was a little confused as to why the setting was in France with characters with French names, and yet the general language was clearly very street English at the beginning, although it did subside after a while. Do the French even know what chavs are? Then I remembered it has been translated from the French language, so the translator (Frank Wynne) has probably just used the English equivalent of the situational language setting.

Overall it is a poignant story, and a good read, hidden within something seemingly unobtrusive. By the way I really like the idea of a four-eyed story.

Buy Soft in the Head at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The original title is La Tête en friche and there is also a film based on the book called My Afternoons with Margueritte.

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