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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

I Wish Someone were
Waiting for me Somewhere


by
Anna Gavalda


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase I Wish Someone were Waiting for me Somewhere



Title: I Wish Someone were Waiting for me Somewhere
Author: Anna Gavalda
Genre: Stories
Written: 1999 (Eng. 2003)
Length: 193 pages
Original in: French
Availability: I Wish Someone were Waiting for me Somewhere - US
I Wish Someone were Waiting for me Somewhere - UK
I Wish Someone were Waiting for me Somewhere - Canada
Je voudrais que quelqu'un m'attende quelque part - Canada
I Wish Someone were Waiting for me Somewhere - India
Je voudrais que quelqu'un m'attende quelque part - France
Ich wünsche mir, daß irgendwo jemand auf mich wartet - Deutschland
Vorrei che da qualche parte ci fosse qualcuno ad aspettarmi - Italia
  • French title: Je voudrais que quelqu'un m'attende quelque part
  • Translated by Karen L. Marker

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Our Assessment:

B : stylish, in a way, and often fairly well told, but not much to it

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 2/3/2002 Pia Reinacher
The Independent . 20/6/2008 Emma Hagestadt
The Guardian . 13/3/2004 Isobel Montgomery
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 6/4/2002 Ursula Pia Jauch
World Literature Today . Fall/2004 Patricia M. Gathercole


  From the Reviews:
  • "Anna Gavaldas Geschichten sind zarte Verführungen. Sie stören nicht, irritieren nicht und haben doch einen unübersehbaren Unterhaltungswert. Ganz ohne Ambitionen sind sie allerdings nicht" - Pia Reinacher, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Though they affect nonchalance, the gap between reality and expectation is painfully wide. The heavy Americanisms in the translation may grate, but Gavalda's writing has verve and style." - Isobel Montgomery,The Guardian

  • "Confessional and chatty, these tart tales of fatal accidents, brief encounters and medical mishaps amuse and engage." - Emma Hagestadt, The Independent

  • "The stories are short, the style simple, the vocabulary colloquial with some dialogue. This entertaining and thought-provoking volume is successfully translated from the French by Karen L. Marker. Be prepared to laugh at many human foibles and startling incidents." - Patricia M. Gathercole, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Anna Gavalda has a distinctive style, and it's this approach -- heavy on the dialogue (and light on the embellishment), very short sections (of often only a few sentences) in rapid succession, an unadorned directness -- that makes for whatever appeal her fiction might have. Not surprisingly, it works better in the short-story form than the novel, and the story-collection I Wish Someone were Waiting for me Somewhere impresses considerably more than her attempt to sustain it at novel-length, as in, for example, Someone I loved.
       There's considerable appeal to this writing that it is so stripped down, but there are also obvious limitations -- indeed, there's a tremendous wall that Gavalda can't surmount. One of those brief sections from the final story, 'Epilogue', recounting how she became a writer, is perfectly representative:

     As the girl takes the money, she picks up the cigarette she'd left on the cash register and asks:
     "What are they about, your stories ?"
     "Everything."
     "Oh."
     "..."
     "..."
     "But mostly about love."
     "Oh ?"
       One has to admire the balls of a writer (even one not naturally endowed with any) willing to toss in ellipses like that, willing to let the reader fill in so many blanks and do so much of the work (while offering so little help or direction). And there's something to be said for writing that leaves so much up to the reader, allowing almost every last inflection to be imposed by the reader rather the author. But it also requires a lot of talent on the part of the writer; Gavalda has some, but ultimately not enough.
       Reading a Gavalda story can feel like reading a play -- but without the stage directions. But she handles this trick well: the texts by no means feel cold or neutral. Far from it: Gavalda easily and constantly elicits emotion. And she seems to be offering characters that are real and speak to the reader.
       One way of doing that is, of course, to have the characters actually speak to the reader -- and so 'The Opel Touch' opens:
     Just as you see me now, I'm walking down the rue Eugène-Govon.
     The whole deal.
     What, no shit ? You don't know the rue Eugène-Govon ? Hold on, are you kidding me ?
       Indeed, very many of these stories are confessional, offering the reader the illusion of being the trusted confidante, making the reading experience an even more personal one. Of course, telling the reader what's in front of their eyes ("Just as you see me now") only goes so far, and Gavalda wisely doesn't try to take that too far -- though occasionally giving in to temptation:
I'm like a character out of a Brétécher comic strip: a girl seated on a bench with a sign around her neck: "I want love," and tears spouting like two fountains from either side of her eyes. I can see it now. What a sight.
       But Gavalda also steers clear of just offering sob-stories (which confessionals can often wind up being) -- mainly by imposing sheer bravado on her characters. There's a lot of bluster and big talk, too, and she offers 'strong' male narrators as well as the story of a woman who gets gang-raped but has the medical expertise to take the appropriate gruesome revenge.
       She also makes sure to get her literary bona-fides in, in the very first story:
     I keep walking, still smiling, and think of Baudelaire's To a Passerby. (What with that reference to Sagan earlier, by now you must have realized I'm what they call the literary type !)
       Got that ? Of course you do: there's nothing in a Gavalda story that you don't immediately 'get', and while there's comfort in such pabulum (and some of it is clever and well-presented) it's also pretty empty fare.
       Gavalda has some talents, and the stories are readable and even, to some extent, enjoyable -- but then these are also stories where one finds sentences such as:
The sorbets were, how should I put it ... delicious.
       Such sentences are not to be taken lightly, or mocked as those of a writer who can't come up with the words. Gavalda knows exactly what she's doing, and the signal she's sending. It's a hand she's reaching out to her readers, talking at their level, that everyday conversational level where one can't be bothered to describe the sorbet one is enjoying any better. It's meant to make Gavalda's characters seem somehow 'real' -- and it seems to convince many readers -- but it's a very limited approach, and only gets Gavalda (and her readers) so far.
       

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Links:

I Wish Someone were Waiting for me Somewhere: Reviews: Other books Anna Gavalda under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       French author Anna Gavalda was born in 1970. She has written several immensely popular works of fiction.

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© 2007-2011 the complete review

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