No and Me by Delphine de Vigan

Just finished reading No and Me.  This is a lovely touching read that makes you reflect and asks some intriguing questions.

Lou Bertignac has an IQ of 160 and a good friend in class rebel Lucas. At home her father puts a brave face on things but cries in secret in the bathroom, while her mother rarely speaks and hardly ever leaves the house. To escape this desolate world, Lou goes often to Gare d’Austerlitz to see the big emotions in the smiles and tears of arrival and departure. But there she also sees the homeless, meets a girl called No, only a few years older than herself, and decides to make homelessness the topic of her class presentation. Bit by bit, Lou and No become friends until, the project is over, No disappears. Heartbroken, Lou asks her parents the unaskable question and her parents say: Yes, No can come to live with them. So Lou goes down into the underworld of Paris’s street people to bring her friend up to the light of a home and family life, she thinks.

This is a strange tale.  Told by Lou who seems a little bit detached.  She spends so much time inside of her own mind, constantly thinking up words, imagining things and making up experiments.  I really liked her though and it would be difficult not to I think.  She has some very insightful things to say and quite frankly makes you laugh out loud on occasion with her random questions or inappropriate remarks.
The three friends all have in common family circumstances that draw them together.  Lou’s mother has withdrawn into herself and no longer connects with her family following a family tragedy.  Also, Lou, due to her extraordinary IQ has been accelerated up through the school years and finds it difficult to mix with her peers.  Lucas, on the other hand, has been put back a couple of years and is actually two years older than his classmates – which probably lends to his air of mystery and coolness in the other students’ eyes, Lucas’s parents are also particularly absent from his life.  Then we have No (Nowlenn).  No has had a troubled upbringing which has ultimately led to her life on the streets.
Lou seems to find a new meaning when she meets No, she has a purpose and something that occupies her mind.  She feels for No and wants to help her.  The problem is of course that No’s problems are not just about food and shelter and Lou and Lucas have no idea how to really begin to help plus in taking No in she is no longer homeless and doesn’t fit in on the streets, but, she also doesn’t fit in in regular society.  She is a square peg in a round hole – or she’s Eliza Doolittle, taught how to speak correctly and look like a lady therefore no longer able to get by selling flowers on the street but actually not a lady either and quite likely to shout obscenities.
Although this is a sad story it is simply, but well told and I like the way that everyone is helping each other.  Lucas has helped to raise Lou’s status with her schoolmates simply by befriending her, Lou has helped No to some home comforts and probably an escape from a cold death on the streets and No has helped Lou by giving her a new focus.  And, I suppose Lou is helping Lucas by simply being his friend.

I suppose in terms of criticisms the only thing I could say is that this isn’t a particularly cheerful novel but I guess that’s explicit just by reading the jacket in the first place.  That being said I thought this was a good book and well worth reading.  My only wish is that I had a better understanding of the ending.

I would recommend this novel.

Rating B+

No and Me

No and Me

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One Response to “No and Me by Delphine de Vigan”

  1. Amused

    I haven’t heard of this book before but it sounds very poignant which I like sometimes. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

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