on 14 January 2004
The book is narrated by Lewis Little, a 13-year-old boy staying in Paris over the summer holidays whilst his mother, a translator, works on a book by Valentina Gavrilovich, a beautiful Russian author who writes popular Medeival romances.
Lewis and his mother stay in Valentina's spacious luxury apartment in the centre of Paris. Lewis kills time by taking Valentina's dog Sergei for walks, playing computer chess and reading. Lewis also develops a crush on Valentina, which grows as he turn's 14 and events escalate into full blown love.
One day Valentina dissapears mysteriously and Lewis sets his chess mind to unravelling the mystery and beating the police at finding her.The novel ends dramatically but I won't give it away in case you have not read it yet.
The novel's strong points are its evocation of a Parisian summer, its poetic, sparkling prose which succesfully transports; its luxurious theme, its occasional humour and as always with Rose Tremain a, sort of, deep symbolic poetry that opens, resonates and illuminates the readers understanding of the charcters and their emotions, and through them, the human condition in general.
It has been argued that Tremain failed in her ambitious attempt to successfully 'get under the skin' of an adolescent boy. Having been one myself I think this is too harsh a judgement. She understands male obsession very well and the narration is beleivable enough to work. Lewis's precocity is a little exagerated, perhaps. I found myself questioning whether a 13-14 year-old boy could be that wise or emotionally developed and thinking he would be rare individual, remebering how I and my peers behaved. Nevertheless, this did not spoil the story for me.
The novel's weekest point is its ending. It is almost as if Tremain lost her nerve. Once again I have to be careful or I will spoil it but all I will say is that it could have been 'better'.
on 9 October 1998
14-year old Lewis Little is annoyed. Instead of spending the summer holidays at home, he is packed off to Paris where his translator mother, Alice, has a job working on the latest novel by a famous Russian emigre writer. But when he arrives he is instantly captivated by the fortysomething Valentina, a warm, voluptuous woman who is the antithesis of the reserved Alice. Tensions abound from the beginning; Valentina and Alice don't get on, Lewis suspects Alice of having an affair - all of which he tries to suppress in his letters home to his father.
There is also the question of shady figures in Valentina's past - who are they? And why is she determined to keep the content of her new book so secret? The plot becomes even more murky when Valentina disappears - and Lewis, though in danger himself, believes that he is the only one who cares enough to save her.
Rose Tremain, author of such highly original novels as Restoration and Sacred Country, has created a suspenseful story which also brilliantly evokes the sights, sounds, and smells of a Parisian summer. The precocious Lewis is a wonderful mixture of adolescent angst and common sense, and the sheer quality of the writing ensures that The Way I Found Her is an exciting, page-turning, and moving read.
on 30 June 2009
This book tells the story of Lewis Little, a precocious adolescent who goes to spend the summer in Paris with his beautiful mother. They will stay at the luxurious apartment of Valentina, a Russian writer for whom Lewis' mother will work as a translator. Lewis will experience his first steps into adulthood through the discovery of first love and the realisation that what he took for granted as a child might inevitably change or disappear. The prose of this gorgeous novel flows so smoothly that one feels it is being softly whispered into our ears. The character are very skilfully outlined, Lewis being an endearing boy, sensible and understanding, and with a startling insight into human nature. Valentina, the glamorous Russian writer, is very well pictured and so is Lewis' mother, Alice: dark, pensive and somewhat selfish. All three incarnate the main trio around which the story spins.
Apart from the writer's elegant style, we discover a masterly plot that starts as a child's summer adventure and subtly acquires tones of detective novel and psychological drama. I can only conclude by saying that this novel is immensely enjoyable from the first to the last page.
on 8 January 2003
I enjoyed this book, but at the same time it frustrated and annoyed me. It's a thriller, with ample suspense and a thoroughly satisfying story and ending, a proper 'denouement' where all the loose ends come together in a satisfactory if not satisfying way.
But what annoys me is the way this female writer has tried to write about a young male teenager's thoughts, about his masturbation, physical stimulation, and his fantasies. Much of the detail just doesn't feel right. Am I the first person to review this book who is brave enough to say so? Or am I the first male reviewer?
However, it is a good read nevertheless, but not as good as Music & Silence which is my favourite book of recent years.
on 6 August 2012
I have enjoyed most of Rose Tremain's books but this one was a huge disappointment. It started quite well with her usual well drawn characters, although the teenage boy, Lewis, was just a tad too precocious for my liking. In the first part, she described beautifully the Parisian life of the main characters (and the lovely dog, Sergei). Then half way through - the "thing" happens - Valentina disappears. Enter Enid Blyton and the story becomes "Five Go Off On An Adventure". The book becomes a Boys' Own fable - full of derring-do and jolly japes, with Lewis taking on single-handed the task of discovering what had happened to Valentina and outfoxing even Inspector Carmody! The part which led me to almost give up on the book was when Valentina (40 something sexual fantasy of young Lewis) ends up having sex with him! Inappropriate and gratuitous.
Lewis Little, a bright and verbally articulate thirteen-year-old boy, is spending the summer holidays in Paris with his mother, the beautiful, red-haired Alice, whilst she works on the translation of the latest romantic historical novel from Russian emigre writer, Valentina Gavrilovich. Valentina, a blonde and curvaceous woman in her early forties, welcomes Lewis into her home, giving him his own space at the very top of the apartment building, where he can look across the rooftops of Paris, and she is openly affectionate towards the impressionable young teenager. In his stiflingly hot, light-filled attic, Lewis spends time each day improving his French by slowly translating Alain-Fournier's 'Le Grand Meaulnes' into English, and his efforts are encouraged by Valentina who comes up to his room in the evenings to listen to his translation. Up on the roof one day, Lewis meets Didier, a roofer repairing the broken slates, who is also an existentialist philosopher in his spare time, and the two become quite friendly, until Lewis begins to suspect that his mother, who has been behaving strangely, is having an affair with him. Whilst trying to cope with the suspicion that his mother is being unfaithful to his father, and with his hormones racing around his body, Lewis develops a huge crush on the voluptuous Valentina. But one day Valentina (who has a somewhat shady past) disappears, and in his quest to solve the mystery of her sudden disappearance, Lewis soon puts himself and Valentina in very great danger.
First-person narrated by the precocious, but very likeable Lewis, who is an engaging mixture of child and soon-to-be-adult, this novel is part coming-of-age story and part mystery story and one which makes for entertaining and gripping reading. Rose Tremain describes her hot Parisian summer and the simmering passions which arise during the sultry summer days very effectively, and she appears to have captured that difficult transitional period of adolescence rather well (although if I were a thirteen-year-old boy, I might not agree). All of the supporting characters were well (if sometimes briefly) depicted - and Sergei, Valentina's rather pampered dog, was wonderfully described! I have to say that although there were parts to this story that I did not find entirely convincing, I was pulled into Lewis's tale from the first pages and very much enjoyed his (sometimes very funny) narration of his own story. However, this novel is not just an amusing and entertaining read as it certainly has its poignant and rather affecting moments - especially the ending, but obviously I shall leave that and the rest of the story for prospective readers to discover for themselves.
Rose Tremain has invented in Lewis Little one of her most engaging characters. Like Adrian Mole on steroids. This 13 going on 50 year old is made to accompany his mother Alice to France where she is engaged as a translator for Valentina who is a noted Russian emigre writer of mediaeval bodice rippers. What more could a young, only just sexually awakened, boy wish for than to spend the summer in the close proximity to this glamourous, alluring creature. The first part of the book revolves around the relationship of Lewis , Valentina and Alice with a few extra characters e.g. the handsome roof repairer, Valentina's old been through it all Russian mother, the young African home help fearing deportation and by no means least Sergei the dog. They all have their own stories woven cleverly into the main plot. Not a lot happens at first although in the hands of Ms. Tremaine the interplay of the characters is interesting and very amusing.
Then it changes with the disappearance of Valentina into a really gripping thriller as the precautious Lewis investigates to his great peril. We now meet a totally different cast of mysterious would be Russian mafia types intent on kidnapping, extortion and if need be murder. It would be wrong to give away any more, but be assured that this is a very fine piece of suspense writing which you simply can not put down until the tragic climax.
I have been a fan of Rose Tremain [ see my reviews ]for many years. Once again she has not let me down.
on 11 June 2000
This book is very original, it has a real spark to it. I love the fact it is narrated by the thirteen year old boy, who wonders whether his feelings for the forty year old Valentina are the kind others imagine a teenage boy to have. Lewis is an interesting character, as is Valentina. The book is full of unexpected twists and revelations. It also gives a good picture of Paris, when reading you really feel transported. This is a must. Nicola.
Lewis Little is thirteen, on holiday with his mother Alice in Paris. They are staying in a boarding house run by Mrs Gavrilovich and Lewis is given a room at the very top of the house which he loves. It doesn’t take long for Lewis to also fall in love with the beautiful daughter of the house, Valentina, who is much older than him, (and though we are not given her age, we know from her from her visit to a hospital that she is probably in her twenties or even her thirties). Another delightful character is Valentina’s dog, Sergei, who plays a trot-on part in the story.
Lewis is the sole narrator and although his view of things is sometimes a little skewed, he is one of the best narrators one could have. He is reading the book Le Grande Meaulnes but later turns to Dosteovsky’s Crime and Punishment and throughout this brilliantly insightful book his reading act as a pointers to Lewis’s sensitive nature. The beautiful Alice seems oddly cold – but perhaps what she does in Paris is a whole other novel. She is often the opposite of maternal, taking off on her own adventures in a way that seems utterly self-involved. He becomes friendly with the workman Didier, who is working on the roof, and Lewis sometimes climbs from his window to help. At other moments Lewis and Valentina are rather thrown together. They visit some of the Parisian tourist sites, and Lewis tries to teach Valentina to swim. There is a servant, Babba, who does most of the housework and laundry, and she tells him about her home in Benin and her baby son. The characterisation is faultless and wonderful.
But more sinister events are set to take over the plot when Valentina disappears and Lewis is caught up in a kidnapping plot, organised by Valentina’s ex-husband. Danger threatens.
This is a wonderful book, full of marvellous moments and revelations. It is a gloriously enjoyable and captivating story. One of her best novels and Lewis is a marvellous creation I really loved this book.
There are some writers whose work I invariably enjoy; I know what to expect (more or less) and they rarely if ever disappoint. Tremain's novels vary enormously both in style and content, and so does my enjoyment of them. I hadn't read this one, and thought it well worth a try.
It tells the story of Lewis Little, a thirteen-year-old boy whose mother is in the process of translating a French novel into English. Her work involves a summer stay in France, and she takes Lewis with her. Here, they are guests of the authors, Valentine, with whom Lewis forms an infatuation, and when Valentine suddenly disappears, he is determined to find her. So far so good.
But...in common with some other reviewers, I did find Lewis remarkably mature - too mature - for his years, and the amount of freedom he is given, in a foreign country where he knows few people, is hard to believe. Also, when the narrative, which starts off as a fairly peaceful one, suddenly morphs into a semi-thriller, I didn't feel that the novel really hung together as a whole. Certainly, I enjoyed it, for Tremain is a consummate writer, and I certainly wanted to know what happened. But it's not one of her best. But it's a fairly early work, and perhaps it isn't fair to expect it to be as good as The Road Home (a brilliant novel, and my favourite).