|The List of My Desires / Grégoire Delacourt|
trans. from the French by Anthea Bell
London : Phoenix, 2014, c2013.
Jocelyne is 47, slightly overweight, in a dull long-term marriage, and works at a dressmaking shop. She's also just started a sewing blog, and has been convinced by her best friends (twins who run a hairdressing shop) to buy a lotto ticket, for the very first time. And then she wins 18 million Euros.
She is so shocked that she doesn't tell anyone, just hides the cheque in a shoe and starts to wonder what to do with it. She doesn't want this to disrupt her placid life of small desires, even if it isn't that great. She's worried that having so much money will change everything; even the lawyers she met in Paris to pick up her cheque have warned her that sudden wealth can be dangerous.
Jocelyne had to give up her dreams at 17, when her mother died, and she seems to have boxed herself in to not wanting much because of it. She puts up with her boring relationship, she plods along in her daily routine, and when she suddenly has the chance to change everything up, she's afraid to.
She begins to make a list of her desires: a new bathmat, a coat, maybe a visit to her daughter in England...small desires indeed. Although, as she notes, these things are important:
Because our needs are our little daily dreams. The little things to be done that project us into tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, the future; trivial things that we plan to buy next week, allowing us to think that next week we'll still be alive.
But despite her caution, and her insistence to herself that everything is just fine the way it is, things go wrong and great wealth does indeed corrupt her intimate circle. Jocelyne must carry on, and she does, with her new sewing blog taking off and making her new friends, opening up new opportunities that will improve her life on a more human scale than 18 million Euros would.
It's a poignant story of money & desire, questioning whether it's really okay to want more, and what it means to our sense of self to have a sudden change like this. I'm sure everyone has thought about what you might do if you won the lotto, the changes you'd make to your life or the things you would buy or places you'd visit. This book makes you think about your desires and their scope, and would be a great discussion starter. If you don't mind a little French sentiment in your reading, this small book might be a great choice for you.
Also, one of my favourite elements of the book is the fact that it's Jocelyne's work with fabric and haberdashery, and the creative outlet of her sewing blog, which anchors the book. When she's visiting a large fabric store in Paris the day she is wandering around stunned at her win, she says
My hands plunge into the fabrics, my fingers tremble at the contact with organdie, fine felt, jute, patchwork. I feel the intoxication... All the women here are beautiful. Their eyes shine. Looking at a piece of fabric, they already imagine a dress, a cushion, a doll. They make dreams; they have the beauty of the world at their fingertips.
Despite some minor flaws, this was a solid read giving a reader quite a bit to think about.