I bought this book last weekend because I remembered Schmitt as the author of Oscar and the Lady in Pink, which I read at least three times. I wasn't disappointed. Schmitt has a talent for coaxing surprise from well-worn plots and rounding out characters with an infectious happiness. He is, above all, an author of hope.
Odette had a talent: joy. In her deepest self, it was as if there were a non-stop jazz band playing lively tunes, pulsating melodies. No hardship seemed to get her down. When faced with a problem, she looked for the solution. Since humility and modesty were part of her personality, no matter what the circumstances she did not stop to think that she might deserve better and consequently she rarely felt frustrated.
She was well disposed toward all humankind, and was able to remain on good terms with people who considered themselves her exact opposite, because she did not judge them. Take her own hallway: she was friendly with an orange Flemish couple who were sunbed freaks and swingers; she fraternized with a brittle, peremptory town employee who knew everything about everything; she exchanged recipes with a young junkie who already had five children and was subject to fits of rage during which she would scratch the walls; and she bought meat and bread for a Monsieur Wilpute, an impotent, racist pensioner, on the pretext that "he may well spout a lot of nonsense," but he was still a human being.