Monday, 10 September 2018

Waiting For Monsieur Bellivier by Britta Rostlund + #Giveaway

Waiting For Monsieur Bellivier by Britta Rostlund
First published in Swedish as Vid foten av Montmartre in Sweden by Norstedts in 2016. English language translation by Alice Menzies published by Weidenfeld And Nicolson in August 2017.

One of my August Authorfest reads

How I got this book:
Won in a publisher giveaway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository (unavailable)
Amazon US / Amazon UK

'Are you waiting for Monsieur Bellivier, madame?'

Helena should of course say no. She doesn't know the man talking to her, she doesn't know Monsieur Bellivier, and she certainly isn't waiting for him. But, bored of life, and sparked by a whim, she says yes.

Mancebo, a Tunisian shopkeeper, lives a quiet life manning his grocery near the Sacré-Cœur. But one day he is approached by a woman asking whether he will spy on her boyfriend, who lives in the apartment across the street. To his surprise, Mancebo agrees.

As Helena and Mancebo's missions overlap, they realise that the City of Light harbours more secrets in its cafés and courtyards than its inhabitants and visitors could possibly suspect . . .

I had read a couple of less-than-enthusiastic reviews of Waiting For Monsieur Bellivier before I received my copy was part of a Weidenfeld and Nicolson prize giveaway. Consequently, I was delighted to find myself completely entranced by the novel! It is set in a wonderfully atmospheric Paris where simply 'sitting on a bench' is the best way to experience the authentic city. Rostlund gives us two distinct narratives which run alongside each other for most of the novel until they finally interlink in an intricately clever way. In one storyline we sit with Tunisian immigrant Mancebo, usually to be found perched on a stool in exactly the same spot outside his little grocers shop watching as his family and customers pass by him. The other storyline is that of freelance writer Helena who takes the brave - or possibly daft - step one day of saying yes to the eponymous question Are You Waiting For Monsieur Bellivier and finds herself given a lucrative but very bizarre new employment.

I was intrigued that Helena's full name, only briefly mentioned, is Helena Folasadu which is almost the real name of the great singer Sade. I'm not sure that this has any relevance to the story though. Is Helena Nigerian or perhaps Rostlund is just a big Sade fan? I certainly am!

I loved that both Helena and Mancebo are pretty isolated people until they begin to get swept up in the intrigues of this story. Mancebo spends lots of time vaguely gazing, but doesn't see what is often right in front of him. Helena works in cafes to have a semblance of human company, but rarely interacts with other people beyond ordering more coffee. I could imagine that such a large city could be lonely if one doesn't make an effort to make and perpetuate social connections. As our story progresses, these connections start to spring up and I appreciated Rostlund's vivid character sketches and porteayals. I really felt Paris come to life through these pages making me yearn to jump on a train and go walk these very streets! I love when novels are so inspiring!

One of the complaints I remember from those earlier reviews was that the reader didn't understand what was going on. I can certainly sympathise with this because, until the very end, the truth of the situation is cleverly veiled. As readers we only know what Mancebo and Helena know - which isn't much! - and so follow them as they grasp at straws for some meaning to the bizarre occurrences. I didn't find I minded this though. I was so completely drawn in to the atmosphere and these people's daily lives that I almost didn't want the mystery to be solved - and therefore the book to end. Waiting For Monsieur Bellivier definitely won't be a novel to appeal to everyone. It is quirky with unexpected diversions and events happen on a small scale. The main focus is on characters getting to know themselves and the truths of the lives around them. However Rostlund has a light touch with inspired humour. I absolutely loved this story.

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

The prize is my (very carefully read) paperback edition of Waiting For Monsieur Bellivier by Britta Rostlund.
Open internationally until midnight (UK time) on the 24th September 2018.

Entry is by way of the Gleam widget below. This giveaway is entirely my own and is not affiliated with either the author or the publisher
(GDPR: Gleam will ask for your email address so that I am able to contact the winner. I will then need the winner's postal address in order to send out the book.)

Waiting For Monsieur Bellivier / Literary Flits book giveaway

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Britta Rostlund / Mystery fiction / Books from Sweden


  1. Thanks for the giveaway! This one sounds great. I've been to Paris a few times and it is such a brilliant city, so it would be nice to revisit it in another book. Both the main characters sound great although it does seem like you need patient to wait for enlightenment with all that happens plot wise.

    1. Monsieur Bellivier portrays Paris beautifully I think :-)

  2. Thanks for hosting this awesome Giveaway! I haven't read many books set in Paris and this seems like a suspenseful treat.
    Tori @ In Tori Lex

  3. It sounds Good Read.Thank you for the giveaway,x

  4. Congratulations to Robert S who's won the Waiting For Monsieur Bellivier giveaway!