How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas

How to Behave in a Crowd

Camille Bordas

With How to Behave in a Crowd, Camille Bordas immerses readers in the interior life of a boy puzzled by adulthood and beginning to realize that the adults around him are just as lost.

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An absorbing, darkly comedic novel that brilliantly evokes the confusions of adolescence and marks the arrival of an extraordinary young talent.

Isidore Mazal is eleven years old, the youngest of six siblings living in a small French town. He doesn't quite fit in. Berenice, Aurore, and Leonard are on track to have doctorates by age twenty-four. Jeremie performs with a symphony, and Simone, older than Isidore by eighteen months, expects a great career as a novelist--she's already put Isidore to work on her biography. The only time they leave their rooms is to gather on the old, stained couch and dissect prime-time television dramas in light of Aristotle's Poetics.

Isidore has never skipped a grade or written a dissertation. But he notices things the others don't, and asks questions they fear to ask. So when tragedy strikes the Mazal family, Isidore is the only one to recognize how everyone is struggling with their grief, and perhaps the only one who can help them—if he doesn't run away from home first.

Isidore’s unstinting empathy, combined with his simmering anger, makes for a complex character study, in which the elegiac and comedic build toward a heartbreaking conclusion. With How to Behave in a Crowd, Camille Bordas immerses readers in the interior life of a boy puzzled by adulthood and beginning to realize that the adults around him are just as lost.


Advance Galley Reviews

I really loved this novel and the introduction of Dory/Izzie's family. There is such authenticity in the family dynamic and the ensuing relationships that are a result. When Izzie's dad passes away, he discovers that it is time to reevaluate whether he is the same as his peer group, or different. This book is at times hilarious and other times dark and makes you really feel for the characters within. I will seek to read more from this author in the future.

Somehow Bordas has managed to give us a functional family of largely dysfunctional people. The Mazals are beyond extreme academics who can't figure out how to have conversations with, let alone care about, anyone outside the family. The youngest of six siblings, Isidore narrates the story, and he is an outcast in the family (comparatively dumb and caring) but also an outcast at school (too smart and caring). The plot is dark, with more than one tragedy, and, while some comments from Izzie are poignant and amusing in a childish-but-insightful way, I wouldn't call this a comedic novel as the blurb states. But Izzie is a good kid, openly earnest and kind, and I loved spending time with him, even though the people surrounding him at home, in school, and in town are a bit off. They are cynical and even hateful at times. There are some strong themes of coming-of-age and how to approach life when schooling is done, when you don't have mentors, since Izzie's siblings can't seem to figure that out. There are some great moments and some odd ones -- I'm just not sure what kind of satire the family represents. Maybe that means they're satiring me? I enjoyed it, but I'm still figuring out where Bordas comes down herself on the cynical scale. I got a copy to review from First to Read.

How to Behave in a Crowd is a heartwarming and heart wrenching coming of age novel. It tells the story of everybody. We all want to find a place where we can be helpful, loved, and successful. The style of the writing reminds me of a memoir due to Dory growing up over the three years covered in the book. It is a quick read and you fall in love with Dory and the way that he sees the world. I think that this is a great book to put on your bedside table and read before going to bed at night. Bordas writes to make you think about the connections between relationships and intelligence by mixing in information about language and theory. She doesn't make it obvious like many other novels. She weaves it in through Dory's curiosity about his sibling's dissertations. I would definitely recommend this book to someone to read. If you don't like a book with a lackluster plot, this book isn't for you. How to Behave in a Crowd is a book that is about the journey and what happens along the way. This book means so much more after reflecting upon the themes throughout the book.

 


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