Moppet's Reviews > Les écureuils de Central Park sont tristes le lundi

Les écureuils de Central Park sont tristes le lundi by Katherine Pancol
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Apr 28, 12

bookshelves: 20th-century, 21st-century, hollywood, paris, london, new-york, fashion
Read in March, 2012

There's a tendency for bestselling series to get longer and more bloated with each book, and unfortunately Les écureuils de Central Park sont tristes le lundi (The squirrels of Central Park are sad on Mondays) is no exception. It's the longest of the trilogy, clocking in at 960 pages in mass market paperback, and it has very little plot. Joséphine needs to get started on a new book, but lacks inspiration - until she finds a diary from the 1960s in the communal bins of her apartment block. The diary itself, written by a young man who falls under the spell of Cary Grant when he comes to Paris to film Charade, is beautifully written, and I really felt that it was wasted as a plot device for a weak novel - I would have loved to read an expanded version as a novel in its own right. (I found it odd that while the male diary-writer's crush on an older man was sensitively and sympathetically portrayed, the other gay characters appearing in Squirrels seemed always to be presented as figures of fun). Apart from that, the main focus is on Hortense, now in the early stages of her career as a fashion designer. The similarities between Hortense and her grandmother Henriette really come out in this book, although they have no scenes together. Both of them are seen drinking a citron pressé - Hortense because lemon juice is good for her skin, Henriette because it's cheaper than alcohol. Henriette, obsessed with saving money in the wake of her divorce, does a sweep of luxury hotels every morning while the rooms are being cleaned so that she can steal unfinished bottles of wine and mini pots of jam; Hortense, on a student budget, uses the self-service till at the supermarket and unblushingly rings up every item as potatoes. The difference between them is that while Henriette has always survived through dependence on men, Hortense doesn't want to rely on anyone but herself - which is affecting her love life. While her icy facade shows signs of melting, Joséphine finally begins to assert herself. It's satisfying to see and ultimately saves Squirrels from being a book too far. But only just.
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