The Book of Wonders by Julien Sandrel

Book Review

the book of wonder

Publisher’s Description

Thelma and Louis, it’s always just been the two of them, Thelma and her beloved son, Louis.

But when Louis is involved in an accident, their lives are turned upside down, as Louis falls into a coma. Feeling lost without him by her side, Thelma finds Louis’ book of wonders – a bucket list of all the things he wants to accomplish in his life. She suddenly sees a way to feel close to him: she will fulfil Louis’ dreams, living them out for him, in the hope that it will inspire him to survive.

Thelma is about to set off on the adventure of a lifetime… and in a way, so is Louis…

My Thoughts

This is quite a short book and therefore a quick read.  It is about Thelma, a single mum who seems to be very career driven and her 12 year old son Louis.  It is translated from the French and is set mainly in Paris where they live. Whilst out walking Thelma takes a call on her mobile from her boss and while her attention is on the phone call Louis, who is going too fast on his scooter and wearing his head phones, gets hit by a lorry. He suffers major traumas and is left in a coma.

Thelma naturally feels the guilt of taking the call and therefore not paying more attention to Louis and telling him to slow down or take off his headphones so that he can hear whats going on around him.  She also feel guilt about not spending as much time with her son as maybe she should have.  Life is busy and her job is very demanding. The doctors do a number of tests on Louis but all come back negative with no good signs of brain activity and give Thelma a time span of 2 months before they will consider turning off the life support machine. As Louis lies in hospital Thelma finds a notebook under his bed labelled The Book of Wonders.  It lists various things Louis would like to do before he dies, (Like a bucket list, thinking obviously that he has plenty of years ahead of him) Thelma decides that she will experience these things for her son and with the aid of an iPad will stream it to him in hospital in the hope that he can hear it.

I enjoyed reading the parts of the story that detailed Thelma’s past like how she met Louis’ father and would have liked to have had more of a build up to her character.

A lot may have been lost in translation as I found the writing very staccato and the story felt as if it had large chunks edited out.  It touches on her job and the difficulties she faces there but didn’t spend much time on the subject.  It is explained that Louis is an above average child with high intelligence, and uses vocab beyond his years.  I thought perhaps that this was a way of introducing the chapters that he narrates whilst in his coma, and to explain why he is treated like an older teenager by his mother, yet on reading the chapters it feels like those thoughts of a child of 12.

It was a nice idea to narrate the trips and experiences Thelma has from The Book of Wonders but some seemed a little unrealistic and the writing just seemed to list of what she did in a rushed manner.  Unfortunately too many things just ‘grated’ with me. She seemed to enjoy the trips far too much, although perhaps this was so that Louis would see the enjoyment these trips gave and give him the incentive to live. On the appearance of her mother in Japan, not once did she scream at her ‘why have you left my son alone!’. In fact I couldn’t really get past the fact that only after a couple of weeks in a coma she felt able to leave him alone at all, never mind to travel to the other side of the world whatever the positive reasons behind it.

I felt I got to know Thelma more as the book went on, as this really is a book about her.  I also felt that the book managed to write about a tragic event in a fairly uplifting manner, and as I mentioned I did enjoyed the parts that described her past.

So all in all just not one for me.  However, we are all different and life would be boring if we weren’t so please do check out other reviews as I have seen many who enjoyed it.

The Book of Wonders is published by Quercus and will be released on May 30th.

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