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Soft in the Head

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  1,461 ratings  ·  199 reviews
A humorous, heartwarming story follows the intellectually dim-witted 45-year-old Germain as he meets and slowly gets to know 85-year-old Margueritte, who sits in the park every day watching the pigeons and reading. She speaks to him as an equal, something his friends rarely do, and reads to him, sparking in him a previously undiscovered interest in books and reading. When ...more
Kindle Edition, 226 pages
Published June 9th 2016 by Pushkin Press (first published 2008)
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Average rating 3.84  · 
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 ·  1,461 ratings  ·  199 reviews

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This is the engaging story of two people who come together in friendship, kindness, affection, and appreciation. A remarkable and heart-rending novel that perfectly illustrates the quote:
“Friends are the family we choose for ourselves.”

The first lines of “Soft in the head” hooked me:

I’ve decided to adopt Margueritte. She’ll be eighty-six any day now so there seemed no point putting it off. Old people have a tendency to die."

and I loved every word and nuance that followed.

“When people are always
May 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a beautiful and elegant story of a young man, middle-aged really, who's learning ability has always been below the norm, and an elderly woman, who meet in what I imagine to be a quaint, lovely park, both unaware that they each count the pigeons that land and run and peck for crumbs.
Marguerite is friendly and gentle to Germaine, and does not call attention to some of the mistakes he makes with words, or his confusion about many things he really doesn't understand.
She becomes his caring
Penny Schmuecker
I loved this book! I wanted more!

Germain is a 45-year old man who meets Margueritte, 85, in the park as they sit to watch and feed the pigeons. There couldn't be a greater contrast between the two new friends. Germain has been told his whole life that he was "soft in the head" by his verbally abusive mother. He can't read, can't spell and has trouble expressing himself appropriately, yet he possesses an insight into his own behavior that many with education or intelligence do not. Margueritte is
"Daydreaming helps me think."

This book has been such a delightful and sweet story, a great companion of mine for the past two weeks. It deals with Germain, a 45 year old man who one day meets Margueritte, a very educated old woman who starts reading to him and who teaches him the value and the beauties of words. Germain is not sharp witted, his friends call him names and his mother has shamed him for it his entire life. He's reluctant when it comes to books. He cannot really read, words get
Nat K
Oct 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, français
I find that French Authors have a beautiful style of writing that is so unique. Whimsical, gentle, lyrical. An intuitive ability to tell a story well in a way which washes you along with the characters.

I picked up this book one lunch break, and was intrigued as it reminded me of a film I'd seen many years previously as part of The French Film Festival (which Sydney holds as a yearly event). It turns out I was correct! Yes, the movie was based around this book, and the book is even more
Translated from the original 2008 French. A sweet story about what happens when Germain (45) meets Margueritte (85) in the park one day. Germain has intellectual deficiencies (which are not exactly clear since he is the narrator of the story so we are limited to what he knows), and has been bullied and abused at home and with friends his whole life because of that. Margueritte listens to him and speaks to him as an equal - which causes his whole world to blossom. I love how she opened the world ...more
Jenny - Book Sojourner
This is one of those rare times that I will say that if this were made into a movie, I would probably like the movie more than the book. The blurb about this story - a 45 year old dim-witted man becoming friends with an 85 year old woman - sounded amazing. I couldn't wait to read it. While the concept is fabulous, the execution didn't quite meet my hopes and expectations.

This story is written from Germain's POV, but this writing style is primarily internal dialogue with frequent train of thought
Girl with her Head in a Book
Review originally published here:

This has to be one of the sweetest books that I have read this year – Soft In The Head may be gruffly spoken but it has an undeniably warm heart. The protagonist introduces himself with the words ‘I’ve decided to adopt Margueritte. She’ll be eighty-six any day now so there seemed no point putting it off. Old people have a tendency to die.’ Germain Chazes is forty-five and is fairly at piece with being known in the
Nov 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short
SOFT IN THE HEAD is as billed “Brilliant and uplifting”. It’s written by a French author, and MUST be translated by a British translator because of phraseology. At any rate, it’s about a forty-four-year-old man named Germain who has been told all his life that he’s slow, or soft in the head. The reader soon learns it’s because his unwed mother, who wasn’t pleased to be an unwed mother, treated him terribly. In fact, the kid was basically a street urchin. As such, he learned to speak based upon ...more
Janet Joy
Apr 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You may think this is a small is not.
You may think this is a quick is not.
You may judge this book by its cover but you will change your mind.

From Pushkin Press: "His mother called him a worthless halfwit while his fellow drunks at the local bar ensure he's the butt of all their jokes. He spends his days whittling wood, counting pigeons and adding his own name to the bottom of the list on the town war memorial. So how could Germain possibly understand what a casual encounter
Jul 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was incredible!! I read it in one sitting. I laughed, I cried, I reevaluated my relationships. I already want to read it again.
an awkward 45yo lunkhead (who's not really a lunkhead but has just been convinced of this over his lifetime) finds acceptance, friendship, and love with and 86yo woman. they meet and bond over their shared fascination with pigeons and go on to create their own grandmother-grandson relationship of choice.

this was a charming read, rough at moments - when learning about germain and his background - but this is smoothed out by the grace and kindness margueritte brings to his life. ('rough' in
This review previously published at If These Books Could Talk where you'll find more reviews, interviews and competitions.

Sometimes, it takes a special someone to help us discover our true selves. When it’s done through a love of knowledge, and books, it’s even better.

Soft in the head, but strong in the heart, Germain seems happy with his lot. His days are an endless array of drinking with his friends, casual sex with his (maybe) girlfriend, and daubing his name on the local war memorial in the
Jul 01, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars

This was a touching read though somewhat short. Germain is a 45 year old "halfwit" who leads a dull life, growing up with an abusive mother and being bullied in school by teachers as well as students. He is practically illiterate and has not given himself a chance to develop any skills or succeed in life. He's not stupid or naive, he realises that he is slower than others and doesn't get ideas or concepts that come easily to everyone else. The poor guy just had a shitty upbringing where
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
Germain didn't had it easy in his childhood. His single mom never showed him love and his teacher always made fun of him. Now in his 40's, with barely any education, he lives in a camper and does some temporary work here and there. He got a loose relationship with his girlfriend but otherwise there is not much going on for him.

One day he meets Margueritte in the park, a nice old lady and an unusual friendship begins...

The book is written from Germain's viewpoint like he is talking directly to
Ágnes Palásthy
May 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a heartwarming story of a gentle giant and a fragile old lady. They are a world apart and yet they have something common: they both like watching the pigeons in the park. Germain is a little slow ("soft in the head" as her mother used to say cruelly when he was a child). Margueritte is a retired researcher who has no family. She starts reading from books to Germain and it opens up the man's mind changing his whole perception of life and the world around him. I loved the gentle pace of ...more
Neens Bea
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A solid 4.5 stars, but I feel the need to reduce the score a tiny bit, as somehow - for once - the film is better than the book. However, this shortish novel is both moving and profound, despite (or perhaps precisely due to) the narrator's limited and at times rather crude vocabulary, and the second half especially is full of hilarious moments. I've been chuckling away on my flights today, and must admit I let out a moan of utter disappointment when I finished the book. Definitely one to ...more
Tom Hughes
Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Charming, in a word. French story, brutish man befriends an expiring old woman. The latter "civilizes" the former, who narrates the story in a distinct and effective voice, revealing his own life bit by begrudgingly sentimental bit.
Aug 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This story is so sweet. It's definitely character driven and emotionally uplifting. I think I smiled through most of it.

Absolutely loved it!
Originally posted in my blog:

This is easily the most touching book that I read this year. This book is just overflowing with honesty and sincerity that did not find it hard to connect to it.

The book follows the story of a unique friendship between a 85-year old Margueritte and 45-year old Germain. Germain was not born in what we can say a normal household. He never meet his father who left them long before he was born. Left with the burden of raising a child on
Ruth This one
Oct 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lovely book reminiscent of the Curious Incident of the Dog. The blossoming of the friendship between Germain and the elderly Margueritte. Beautiful, poignant and kind.
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-read-books

I thought this was going to be a quick read but nooo. Each chapter is about 2-5 pages long but I had to stop reading after a couple because the conversations Germain has and the things he starts thinking about is thought-provoking. Because his character is someone who is "soft in the head" it's refreshing to see his take on a lot of things we tend to take for granted. Though it is a light read and considering the sexual innuendos, I found it pretty funny. Overall I don't think this book
“I’ve decided to adopt Margueritte. She’ll be eighty-six any day now so there seemed no point putting it off. Old people have a tendency to die.”

So begins this lovely story of how a chance meeting can change your life for the better.

All his life Germain has been told he was a “half-wit” and a little “soft in the head”. Germain was handed a horrible set of circumstances from the get-go; a father who didn’t know he existed, a mother who was abusive and provided only the bare necessities of life –
Lara Maynard
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lauren Wallace
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was ok
"Words are boxes that we use to store thoughts the better to present them to others. Show them to their best advantage." (22)

I really found this book missing a lot in plot and I found it really uneventful. I found that it was a bit all over the place from the past to the present and it was missing flow and direction. However, I did enjoy the idea of this book, and made me want to read more.

This was a quick read, as I read it in a couple of hours.

If your looking a for a quick read, this is ok!
Jun 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is a love letter to teachers, to books, to libraries, and to seeing the humanity in everyone. An unlikely friendship becomes a bond that alters both parties, and the story of their developing relationship (told from the perspective of a misunderstood, largely ignored man) made me think about the impact we can have on others, for good or bad, that we may never, ever know about.
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you liked the Elegance of the Hedgehog because of the way it speaks of the redemptive quality of a life of the mind. And if you liked The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime because of the not-always-reliable but totally original narrative voice. Then you will probably like this. You can read it in a weekend. It’s sweet, made me happy and I wish I could read it in the original French.
Anshul Gupta
Feb 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good quick read with humor being subtle to make you go on towards the end without stopping.
Loved the easy plot with few center locations and descriptions to the detail woven in good vocabulary creatively.
A bit slow going at first, but by the second half I was much more into it. A sad but heartwarming story of friendship between a functionally illiterate 40 something man and an elderly woman he meets in a park. I enjoyed witnessing Germaine grow along the way.
Dan Vogel
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful story

People can be changed by the force of character. An old woman and a.middle-aged man bound over counting pigeons. Leading to a life changing experience for them and now me too.
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