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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A witty, heartfelt 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

The description of How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas calls the book"an absorbing, darkly comedic novel that brilliantly evokes the confusions of adolescence." Clearly, I am not the reader for this book for I miss the humor and the entire idea of a coming of age story. Honestly, I walk away from this book with just the idea that I missed the point. Read my complete review at Reviewed for Penguin First to Read.

This novel wasn't plot-driven (which I usually don't enjoy), but I still thought it was excellent. I loved Bordas' writing style & found the quirky cast of characters nothing short of entertaining. Although light on the surface, Bordas explores darker topics such as grief, suicide, death, etc. throughout the novel - a balance which I think is quite difficult to accomplish. I have no doubt that "How to Behave in a Crowd" isn't for everyone, but I adored it & will be eagerly recommending it!

How to Behave in a Crowd didn't manage to captivate me. I normally love stories by French authors, so fully expected to like it. However, the story didn't keep me interested. I didn't particularly warm to the main character and I didn't pick up on his charm. It made me sad I didn't feel the magic of this story.

I would bet I started and stopped this book at least 4 times. I finally got up to over 100 pages so figured I HAD to finish it. Was glad I did. Although it was slow going, once I decided I could finish it, I was glad I did. Unfortunately I felt so many questions were unanswered. I didn't like the bit about "the father" and never finding out what he actually did for a living and I felt that was a bit ridiculous to think he never knew his Dad's occupation. That to me was very far fetched. However it ended up being a decent read.

Unfortunately, this book wasn't quite for me. I struggled with the disjointed story telling that seemed to jump around, and I didn't really like any of the characters. Also, this novel didn't really seem to have a plot, or rather, a plot wasn't the focus of this book. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but combined with the other things I listed, I hard a time finishing this one.

This story is told through the eyes of Isadore, the youngest of 6 children of a family in France. The other siblings are seemingly brilliant, skipping grades and of great accomplishments at an early age. Only Dory (or Izzy as he prefers) is drifting along in his appropriate grade and with no obvious achievements. He, however, notices people's reactions and feelings, perhaps a greater gift. That said, this is not a plot driven novel, rather a character driven book. I tried hard to like the characters but found my attention continuously wandering. This tale is simply not my cup of tea. I received a pre-publication copy of "How to Behave in a Crowd" free in exchange for an unbiased review.

I tried multiple times to read this book, but it just couldn't keep my interest. I was looking forward to reading about a quirky boy and his family. But, I couldn't connect to the characters (particularly the mother) and after awhile, Dory just became annoying instead of enchanting. Sadly, I needed to move on to another book that I found enjoyable and was worth my time.

I commend Camille Bordas for writing what the French think about Americans and France period. From the description, I was expecting some plot twists. I was not disappointed with the book though. I could relate to the elements of belonging and identity. I have a son who is Izzie's age. He is also precocious and I must remind him to live a little. Dory reacts to the father's death positively. He seeks out new connections for himself and his family. He entered the territory of the online dating world. The author portrayed this world accurately. I think what the story was expressing was important. I also participate in condescending fests with my children. They are geared towards celebrities rather than regular people. I also noticed he was confronted with death throughout How to Behave in a Crowd. Overall I would declare this a good read. I admit I was sad for the book to end.

“I guess that’s what happens when you’re the only one to notice a thing: you feel responsible for it.” How To Behave In A Crowd follows a French family living in a small town in rural France. We get our introduction and view of the family from the youngest son, Isadore. Dory, or Izzy, as he would prefer to be called, feels separate from his family. The rest of his siblings have all skipped grades, shown to be prodigies in one way or another, sometimes multiple ways. Yet Dory is in the grade he belongs and has no idea what he wants to do or who he wants to be. Rather than presenting a straight forward coming-of-age tale, the Mazal family is struck by a tragedy early in the book. This tragedy becomes the defining moment of the family, and so the book, in how each member moves forward with their grief. Even though Dory isn’t a prodigy academically, he is prone to observing and understanding people better than the rest of his family. This sensitivity and ability to empathize, is his family’s best shot at healing from their grief. “I knew my mother thought that of me. That I was kind, and good at reading people’s emotions. What I didn’t understand was why she thought it was a good thing.” This book was presented as a dark comedy. While I did see the darker aspects of humor in the characters, the comedy of it didn’t quite work for me. I could see the quirks written into each character to make them seem eccentric, aloof, and in their own way, humorous, but it just didn’t work entirely for me. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the book. But rather than finding the humor in the writing, it felt very tragic and sad. Dory was meant to be the one to bring the family together and help them heal, but I didn’t see that happen. In fact, in a rather abrupt ending, we are told about Dory’s role, rather than shown that role. The fact that Dory feels unseen and out of place is made very clear. I realize that eccentric people can seem cold and unfeeling, when really they have much more depth. In fact, this depth is usually where the humor lies. I think for me; however, we are never really shown that depth from anyone but the mother. We are shown the struggles that Dory’s siblings go through, but how he helps them to resolve those struggles is a little less clear. By the time I reached the end, and Dory gets hit with another severe emotional trauma, I was fairly fed up with the family. Instead of coming across as eccentric, quirky but well-meaning members, they all came across as self-absorbed and dysfunctional. I imagine that being the youngest of six children would make any child feel somewhat invisible. I can also understand how living a normal life in a family of prodigies would really highlight that feeling. But the siblings all felt too absorbed in their own intellect to really try and connect with each other. I didn’t get the sense of a big family, full of unique personalities, challenging each other. Instead, the siblings were all involved in their own projects, their own lives, and had a difficult time connecting. One scene described all the siblings home, the visitor asking if Dory was by himself due to the quietness of the home. It gave the impression of a home that is sterile, cold, devoid of any warmth that a family should provide. Again, it felt more dysfunctional to me, rather than eccentric. Having the mother emphasize Dory’s kindness and empathy only drives home that the other siblings aren’t. “Sometimes, I feel like I brought up a batch of little misanthropes,” she said. “You’re all so intolerant. You only look up from your books to criticize the rest of the world.” The trauma Dory experiences, both instances of it, leave him with an anger that demands an outlet. I really would have enjoyed that anger land him in some sort of trouble that forces the family to rally around him. When you hear the book compared to The Royal Tennenbaums, you can easily picture this crisis. It would have provided the siblings and even the mother the chance to redeem their quirks, their selfishness, their lack of interaction. Instead, we are given half attempts from half of the family. His anger is somewhat released, left largely unaddressed and there isn’t a clear path forward when the novel closes. Ambiguity in a character isn’t a problem for me. Life ends nightly on unknowns for all of us. In general, I love when a novel shows the openness and possibility at the end, and if fits the character. In this case, I had no sense of hope for Dory. There was no sense that the siblings would ever be involved in his life, or change their efforts in regards to him. the mother did seem to be more aware of his struggles and there was hope that she would perhaps change, but given how small her role in the family was in relation to Dory, I’m not sure that was as satisfying as it could have been. In all, the book was melancholy and sad. I felt terrible for Dory throughout the entire book. This kid needed friends, family support and most of the time a really big hug. Perhaps that’s the American in me. Maybe it was a cultural translation that didn’t work for me. I’m not sure, but whatever the reason I just didn’t connect with this family. Thank you to the Penguin Random House First to Read program and Crown Publishing for the early copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Although this book is getting some solidly good reviews, it just didn't do much for me. It is definitely more character driven than plot driven, and I just found my mind wandering as I was reading. There are some cute, well-developed characters, but I just kept wanting a little more from them. I don't feel like the book quite lives up the the hype.

Sometimes the impression you get from a book’s description is the right one and sometimes it’s the wrong one. Sometimes when that impression is wrong, you find you enjoy the book just the same and sometimes you don’t—or at least, you don’t enjoy it as much as you might have if it was closer to what you were expecting. The soon-to-be-released How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas wasn’t as close to the description as I might’ve hoped. There were elements and themes I definitely found relatable, but I can’t really say that I enjoyed the novel as a whole; of course, I can’t say that I hated it either. I just found myself incredibly indifferent over all. Isidore Mazal is the youngest in his family. With three older sisters and two older brothers, all incredibly intelligent and blindly dedicated to their studies and academic pursuits, Isidore is the only one of his siblings who seems to be able to connect with people outside the family with relative ease. His siblings often baffle him as much as he appears to baffle them. As major changes alter the dynamics of the family, Isidore searches for ways to connect with the members of his family. The biggest issue I had with this novel was its structural presentation. The way it was broken down into four sections but not distinctive chapters beyond that left the slow progression feeling tedious. The breaks within each section were inconsistent with some lasting a few paragraphs and others large stretches. The narrative focus was disjointed in a way consistent with other first person narrative structures. It was completely believable and very in keeping with Isidore’s youth, but it didn’t make it any more enjoyable to read for me (but then, I’m picky about first person narrations). It was probably intentional that, despite how much we see of any of Isidore’s siblings, they seem to remain strangers. Though the novel follows Isidore’s growth and development (as it was always meant to given the fact it’s obviously his story), I was expecting and hoping for a bit more development from the rest of the characters though, I think a lot of this is simply that the others’ development is difficult to track given the sporadic presentation of the narrative. There’s a linear track to the novel as a whole but the first person narration is certainly true to life in the rambling nature of Isidore’s observations and the way he slips into complete tangents. Perhaps it’s really just that I failed to connect with Isidore himself that left me so indifferent to this novel. I could easily follow his train of thought and his reactions to a lot of things but they failed to catch and hold my interest. As his friend in the novel tells him, he’s too literal about things. His siblings are able to lose themselves in something, whether it’s from avoidance of something else or from genuine interest, but there doesn’t seem to be much of anything that truly interests Isidore. He may have an easier time relating to those outside the family but he doesn’t have any obvious passion, and while it makes sense for a character going through the changes Isidore does in the novel, it—again—doesn’t make it particularly enjoyable to for me as a reader. How to Behave in a Crowd will be available for purchase tomorrow, August 15, 2017.

How to Behave in a Crowd is a novel about a family with a set of precocious, “exceptional”, excelling siblings, ranging in age from around 10 to mid-20s. The Mazal family and their attributes is very reminiscent of the Glass family, of Salinger lore — a group of siblings that are just so smart and specialized in their studies, but floundering in a world that requires more skill sets than pure intellect. Everyone’s a little too smart, everyone’s a little too annoyed with the rest of society, everyone is a little too much of a self imposed shut in because they think their intellect is too “alienating.” While this could put off a lot of readers, I still found How to Behave in a Crowd entertaining and I silently laughed to myself several times with sentences that perfectly set me up to be caught off guard. All of the children are prodigies in academia or musical performance, except for the youngest and the narrator Isidore/Dory, who seems to have more emotional and social ability than the others. While his siblings often discount Isidore’s statements, it also seems like they wish for his social adeptness in the same way that Isidore wants to be as academically excellent as each of his siblings. The dialogue about life and other people is what really makes this novel shine. Two of the Mazal siblings are in the midst of completing PhD programs and I found their strings of consciousness quite amusing, since I’m partially through my own PhD studies at the moment. In the same way that you’ll have a favorite Glass if you read Salinger’s collection, you’ll have a favorite in the Mazal family too. I think my favorite Mazal is Aurore, which isn’t too surprising given that my favorite Glass is Franny. At times I wondered if How to Behave in a Crowd may have been better as a short story because most of the pages seem to be dazzling examples of the author waving her pretty pen and witty commentary without actually moving the plot anywhere. The novel is kind of like a great conversation you’re really engaged in while it’s happening, but you can’t remember any of the specific details the next day, but just how you felt while having it. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, I simply mean that a lot of the writing seemed superfluous and unnecessary for the story at large. I still enjoyed the paths it took me along anyway. Some of my favorite quotes were: “I have an opinion on everyone who seems to have a good time being a teenager.” – Aurore (p. 152) “She was good at turning everything you said into yet another example of how complicated she was.” (p. 208) Isidore on Denise. “One only cried if one expected something from the world and was disappointed.” (p. 83)

Wow! I loved this book. I went in blind, not knowing anything about the author or the story. But I was quickly wooed by Dory's (who would prefer to be called Izzy) insight into his family, classmates, community, and life in general. His deadpan, honest delivery reminded me somewhat of the narrator in Elif Batuman's The Idiot, another 2017 novel I really loved. This is not a plot-driven book. Rather, it's about a period of time, about big and small moments that can occur, conversations, interactions, reflections, about what it means to be an empath. Dory grows up believing that unlike his five brilliant older siblings, he is not particularly special or smart. But of course, his ability to notice small details, to speak honestly about what he feels, to care about others makes him the 'smartest' member of his family. I'm so glad I got to read this! Thank you Penguin.

As far as character-driven novels go, this one was pretty good. The timeline was a little disorienting- it was difficult to get a grasp on how much time was passing, exactly. I did enjoy the cast of quirky characters, even if they were way too smart for this reader. ;) Overall a good book but I much prefer plot-driven novels.

Sadly no review for this book. I have tried multiple times to download and it just won't let me. But I do look forward to reading it when it does come out.

I had the opportunity to read this book thanks to the First to Read program by Penguin Random House and I really enjoyed it. Reading about an introverted eleven-year old child seemed interesting, but finding out that his five older siblings are also introverts was quite hard to believe. Isidore (Izzie, Dory) has to deal with the high standards his siblings have already set with their PhDs, Master Degrees and skipping grades. Meanwhile, together they must deal with the terrible loss of a family member. Everyone deals with this on their own way but Isidore, on the other hand, deals with this by unexpectedly coming out of his comfort zone, and updating his role inside a family full with complex people. One can tell simply by the cover that inside this novel there’s someone trying to connect the dots and figure something out.

3.5 stars. Spanning a couple of years, How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas is a character driven young adult novel about the youngest of six children who is trying to figure out how he fits in with his genius siblings. Eleven year old Isidore “Dory” Mazal is quite ordinary compared to his highly intelligent, grade skipping brothers and sisters. While he might not be as smart as his siblings, Dory is much more observant and he is also more social than they are. Despite being more interested in forming friendships, his only friend at school, Denise Galet, is also somewhat of an outcast due to her ongoing depression and anorexia. Although Dory is close to his mother, his relationship with his business traveling father is somewhat distant. Despite sharing a room with his sister, Simone, who is also closest in age to him, they are not particularly close since she is a scholastic overachiever like their older siblings. After the family suffers a tragic loss, Dory reacts with kindhearted compassion and empathy unlike his brothers and sisters who quickly return to their normal life. Life with the Mazal family is somewhat dysfunctional since Dory’s siblings are rather disconnected from the rest of the family. Their interactions with one another are limited to family meals and watching the occasional TV show together. The siblings’ extremely high IQs alienate them from their peers and they have little patience or tact when dealing with anyone whom they perceive is not their intellectual equal. Although the concept for How to Behave in a Crowd is unique, the novel is very slow paced. The plot occasionally feels disjointed since Dory’s narration hops from one anecdote to another that are not necessarily connected to each other. Overall, his narration comes across as extremely detached which makes it somewhat difficult to for the reader to feel much of a connection with the various characters. While Dory is an enjoyable lead protagonist, none of his is siblings are particularly sympathetic or likable. Camille Bordas brings the story to a very abrupt and rather unsatisfying conclusion.

Very interesting look at a quirky family and a few outsiders from the eyes of a n 11 year old. Dory is less complex than the other members of his family which makes his view of them that much more interesting. While it was kind of slow in spots, I couldn't quit it.

I really enjoyed the book. Gave you the feeling that you were with Izzy. Would like to read something else from this author.

I loved this book from start to finish. Full of a cast quirky, very French characters, lots of humor, and a delightful protagonist in 11-year-old Dory, this novel is like no other I've read before. The Mazal Family is full of intellectuals. All of Dory's five siblings are brilliant. But Dory just never seems to fit in. As the book progresses through triumphs and heartaches, it becomes very apparent that Dory is the true hope of this family and the glue that holds them together. Unique in approach and tone, this is a novel that I hated to see end. I'll be thinking about this book for quite a while.

How To Behave In A Crowd reads like an intellectualist's guide to growing up. Written from the point of view of the youngest child, the Mazal family is seen through the eyes of Isidore (Izzie), the least brilliant of his siblings, aged 11 at the start of the story. Over four years we follow the Mazal family's growth, or lack thereof, following the death of "the father", a man who is seen very little by the reader and his wife and family due to his continuous travel schedule. Bordas explores the difference between intellectual and emotional experience in a way that is fresh and often times quite funny, despite the heavy topics of paternal loss and teen suicide. While the children are relative geniuses, they lack social grace and when the father dies of a heart attack while away on business, the household retreats into itself, each sibling resorting to the comfort zone of academia and art. Their mother keeps it together on the surface but grieves each night in the solitude of her bedroom. Isidore becomes the glue that keeps the family together; talking or reading his mother to sleep each night, becoming the confidant of his two sisters and the dissertation subject of one of his brothers. While his siblings and mother withdraw from life, Izzie makes new friends, attempts to run away several times, loses his virginity and becomes the translator for the oldest woman in town. The humor and tenderness of this novel come from Izzie's literal translation of his environment and human interactions. He is an intellect in his own right but remains an innocent to the end. This is Camille Bordas' first novel written in English and while it is set in France, it feels contemporary and relatable. This is an exceptional story exploring the ways we deal with grief and familial ties in times of crisis and a reminder to be kind to one another.

When I read the description of the story I thought of The One-in-a-Milion Boy by Monica Wood. Unfortunately, the only thing they had in common was a woman on her way to setting a record for age and that the boy was misunderstood. There were some entertaining spots but not enough to save the book from being a drag.

An insightful work of literary fiction that has an odd sense of audience. Bordas has crafted some cognitively colorful characters who border on unrealistic. Very French in the values toward purism, high-brow topics and passionate sacrifices made to achieve essential purposes. However, is over-achievement often so concentrated in the real world of family? Further development of other characters and their relationships would bring this story to greater light. What continued reader engagement for this one is the FANTASTIC sense of humor Bordas has and is demonstrated during the scenes between siblings, Simone and Dory. The plot of the story sort of meandered along low hills and shallow alleys and more risk for characters would be enjoyed. I suggested that my teenager read this one when it's further available because like the central character Dory, she is immersed in defining the world and her place within it and the depth to which this author observes people, their behavior and motivation is provocative. I'm eager to read Camille Bordas' next novel because it often occurs that debut novels are seed laden and quietly dormant. Thank you Penguin for granting the opportunity to have a First Read in exchange for an honest review.

This book was addictive. I wasn't sure where it was going, but I just didn't want to stop reading. The story is told through the eyes of Isadore, the youngest of the six Mazal children and seemingly the least remarkable, academically speaking anyway, as all of his siblings are already working on advanced degrees when most people their age are finishing high school. They are on a whole other plane on thinking from the 11-year old... and from pretty much everyone except one another. It doesn't take long before you start to realize that Dory (who would rather be called Izzie) is pretty remarkable. He doesn't fit in with his uber-academic family, and he also may be a little too smart to really fit in with his classmates. His family does not suffer fools gladly, they're a pretty solitary group for the most part. But Isadore is much more open. Awkward, but open nonetheless. For 300 or so pages, we follow along as he seeks to find his place in the world. I loved every minute of it. After finishing this book, I had to take a day to consider a few things. I think if I read it a second time I may get even more out of it. The characters reference Aristotle's Poetics, as well as other concepts that make this novel intellectually stimulating, as well as emotionally stimulating. I do not read like a scholar, I generally need to be hit over the head with symbolism to be consciously aware of it. When the characters in a fictional novel are discussing Poetics and arguing that there are only a few variations of stories since Aristotle, I have to think that something meta is going on there. But, like I said, I don't read like a scholar and I enjoyed this book and will likely continue to consider it for quite shine time.

The main character doesn't seem entirely consistent throughout the story, but you still find yourself rooting for him as he tries to find his place in his family and the world. It's almost too dark or depressing at times, but most of the events in the book have some kind of payoff by the end, which helps to give it more of a cohesive story.

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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