‘The Mystery of Henri Pick’ by David Foenkinos – “Merely Pleasant”


‘The Mystery of Henri Pick’ by David Foenkinos (2016) – 281 pages           Translated from the French by Sam Taylor


‘The Mystery of Henri Pick’ is a playful French literary mystery. It is not a world-changer but instead an amusing interlude. After reading the intense stories in James Baldwin’s ‘Going to Meet the Man’ which were passionate and insightful and angry, I was ready for something that was “merely pleasant”.

In the town of Crozon in Brittany there is a library where would-be authors can take their manuscripts that have been rejected by one or many publishers and have never been accepted. Somehow Delphine who is a literary agent for a publishing house comes across one of these rejects, ‘The Last Hours of a Love Affair’ by one Henri Pick, and believes she has found a best-seller. Henri Pick is the owner of a pizza shop in Crozon who has died a couple of years ago, and his wife and daughter are quite shocked that he had literary ambitions.

The story in the rejected manuscript blends the last moments of a love affair with the death throes of Russian writer Alexander Pushkin after he had been shot in a duel. Delphine believes this is a surefire hit if handled the correct way.

Delphine had realized that the best way to publicize the novel was to talk about it as little as possible, to let a feeling of mystery surround it, perhaps even a few false rumors.”

‘The Mystery of Henri Pick’ makes good-natured fun of the world of books and writers. There is much tongue-in-cheek literary humor here about publishing or not publishing books, marketing books, and writing fiction itself. There are even subtle mischievous jokes about famous French authors including Michel Houllebecq and Laurent Binet. This novel is too light and fluffy to be called satire.

We are introduced to a merry-go-round of characters. We get to know these characters superficially, all on the surface. Although there are break-ups of old romances and the beginnings of new romances, none of these are at all intense. In ‘The Mystery of Henri Pick’, David Foenkinos views the lives of his multitude of characters through rose-colored glasses. This is a lighthearted novel.

I enjoyed it. Just as with all of those paintings of the French Impressionists, one can never underestimate the power of the “merely pleasant”.


Grade:    B+




2 responses to this post.

  1. Yes, too much gloom and doom — or even serious thinking — is bad for the psyche.

    Liked by 1 person


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