Top critical review
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Couldn't finish it
on 18 February 2009
I was looking forward to reading this book, as the author is new to me, I enjoy the genre, love and know France, and am familiar with the region. But how to get through a book with such a clunking translation? Mr Bellos fails to find a consistent voice for the characters, who wander from bizarre slang ("you'll be in the slammer for the rest of your twatty lives") to Edwardian formality ("swithering"??). There also seems to be indecision on whether to make this UK English of the "old chap" variety, or to use Americanisms like "wrench" (as opposed to "spanner") and "fresh-painted". And at times you can almost see the translator writhing to force a paragraph from French into what he takes for English:"She can pick whomever she wants. Whoever she likes best."
This may sound like nit-picking, but it truly spoiled my enjoyment of this book, as the lumpen translation jars so frequently.
As to the story itself, well I found it rather slow, and the insistence on character quirks (e.g. the dictionary quotations) become painful after a while. I might try another, based on the other reviews here, but it will have to be in the original to have any chance at all.