1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I was introduced to Geraldine McCaughrean through the Amazon Vine program when I selected, almost randomly, her latest book "The Glorious Adventures of the Sunshine Queen". Right away I was hooked and wanted to read more. Her writing style is so fluid and simultaneously outrageous and believable. Her characters are larger than life and utterly impossible, yet utterly irresistible and lovable. "Sunshine Queen" was one of the wildest rides I've ever been on and I wanted to go again and again.
"The Death-Defying Pepper Roux," while quite different in setting, plot and tone, still showcases McCaughrean's zany style, and this book was no disappointment.
Paul "Pepper" Roux wakes upon his fourteenth birthday knowing that today would be the day of his death, as foretold by St. Constance through his Aunty Mireille before his birth. Pepper tries to be sanguine and accept his fate as dutifully as he's accepted everything else in his truncated life - thrice-weekly confession, calloused knees from excessive praying, his aunt's constant chastisements and remonstrances. But, really, when you're being chased, what do you do? You run, right?
And so Pepper does. Fleeing from the saints and angels, he runs right out of his own life. First he takes up his father's life as captain of the "L'Ombrage" where the doting steward Duchesse ("the Duchess") cares for his every need. Unfortunately, the saints and angels catch up with "Captain" Roux, but they miss and kill another man (one who was rather in need of killing, but that doesn't assuage Pepper's guilt). When the ship sinks (not exactly accidentally), Pepper decides, Jonah-like, to save the others by going down with the ship himself so that the saints and angels won't inadvertently harm anyone else in their pursuit of him.
But again the bumbling angels can't seem to manage their simple assignment. Pepper wakes up aboard a Malay ship and ends up in Marseilles where he becomes "Pepper Salami", counter boy at the delicatessen of a large department store. Pepper figures that by working around meat slicers and other sharp implements, he is giving the angels fair chance at him. However, an unfortunate misunderstanding involving notes in an overhead pneumatic cash system compel Pepper to once again flee for his life. Poor Pepper, he was only trying to bring everyone happiness. (Warning: don't read that scene in public. It is laugh out loud funny and people will wonder what you're smoking.)
And so, like a French version of "Catch Me If You Can", Pepper sprints through a series of other lives - the journalist "Pepper Papier" who writes happy stories, the horse boy who doesn't understand the nature of the horses he cares for - or where they're headed for, the telegram boy "Zee" who only delivers good news, the husband of Yvette Roche - whose real husband died on L'Ombrage, and "Legion Roche" the French foreign legion recruit. In life after life, Pepper seeks only to keep the saints and angels at bay while dispensing happiness along the way. But time after time his attempts to dispense happiness only get muddled and make him more and more enemies. And as if that many human enemies isn't enough, the saints and angels keep catching up with him. Well, in their own bungling way, that is. But no matter how bad the troubles, there's always a sense that we shouldn't get too mournful.
In addition to being as wild a ride as you're likely to find, this book is also both endearing and philosophical. Rarely in literature do you find characters as deeply lovable as Pepper, Duchesse and Yvette Roche. This is, of course, because the characters are not really human - they are better than human, more human than any real human could be.
The book is also both darkly pessimistic and brilliantly hopeful at the same time. Pepper confronts very grim realities of human nature for such a young, naïve and trusting soul: death, fraud, theft, capriciousness, injustice, greed, and, ultimately, personal betrayal by the very people closest to him (or rather, those who should have been closest to him). But through it all, Pepper retains his own goodness, his trust and his desire to help and spread happiness.
McCaughrean has a flair for endings. Every element of the story, even those which the reader has forgotten, falls neatly into place. And although the ending is remarkably chipper and fairy-tale perfect for such a grim book, it doesn't at all feel forced or cheesy. It feels simply inevitable, as if there were no other possible way the story could end.
Because of a number of mature themes, I'd recommend parental guidance for younger kids (those under 12 or 13 perhaps), but I highly recommend it nonetheless. Geraldine McCaughrean appears to be sadly underappreciated, at least in the U.S. Do yourself a favor and discover her writing - you'll be hooked.
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Finding this book shelved in the teen section is a bit like having Anna Karenina stuck in with the Harlequin romances, or Metamorphosis kept in sci-fi/fantasy. This isn't just a great teen novel, it's a great novel. In fact, I'd guess that the publisher probably hurt sales by not marketing it as another Life of Pi. It should have been sold as an adult novel with a teen protagonist rather than as a young adult novel.
Pepper Roux is a 14 year-old boy living in a French coastal town. The time period is the early 1900s, but that's only a guess, and the era isn't too terribly important to the story. Pepper's family consists of a mother, father and aunt. Aunt Mireille is a religious fanatic who, on the day of Pepper's birth, claimed that St. Constance appeared to her in a vision and said that Pepper would die on his fourteenth birthday. Pepper's parents are under Mireille's thumb, or at least believe totally in her prophecy. Pepper has grown up certain in the knowledge that he will die on his fourteenth birthday. His whole life has been a preparation for his terminal day. The terrible day arrives and Pepper decides to run away from his fate. What follows is a novel with a structure that's part odyssey, part picaresque, but unlike most picaresque novels the main character is neither a rogue or a rascal, although Pepper does, in all innocence, commit some rascalish acts. It's hard to outline the plot withuot making the story sound overly whimsical, but Pepper becomes, by turn, a sea captain, a reporter, a meat cutter, a French Legionnaire, a horse wrangler, a telegraph boy, and a husband, all in an effort to disguise himself and thus hide from St. Constance's wrath. Along the way, as is the case with a picaresque novel, Pepper learns much about the human character, both it's nobility and its cruelty.
The general tone of Roux is light and humorous, but there are darker elements, particularly the anguish Pepper goes through as he tries to live with the constant fear of God coming down to snatch him up. The quality of the writing, McCaughrean's ability to craft striking sentences, metaphors and similies is what's most astonishing about this novel. I can't think of another recent novel I've read that shows more agility and joie de vivre with the English language. Equally good is her skill at alternating dark and whimsical elements. Not getting the balance right can really ruin a novel, but McCaughrean manages it flawlessly. The best example is her handling of Yvette, an abused woman who Pepper becomes a "husband" to. Yvette is nearly mute but the author makes her very real, and her pain is truly affecting but not so much so that it makes the novel uncomfortably serious.
I actually wouldn't recommend this book to teens unless they're up for a highly unconventional plot structure and an equally odd main character. This novel doesn't fit easily into most teen fiction genres. It has aburd, surreal moments but it's not a fantasy, nor is it about garden variety teen problems. Really, the novel it most closely resembles is Candide or perhaps The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. So far, it's the best novel I've read this year.
Read more of my reviews at JettisonCocoon dot com.