The title suggests from the start what the novel’s about. It is that typical love story, with a “he” and a “she” who have nothing in common and who hate each other at first, but who are eventually growing to like and falling in love with each other.
Camille, an anorexic talented painter, had a bad childhood, being bound to live with her confirmed depressed mother. The only good moments back then were those related with her father, who visited her and took her on long imaginary rides on Riviera with their old no-wheels Jaguar.
Her father’s death, which left her with a large amount of insurance money, determined her to (strangely) embrace an abstemious lifestyle and refuse to take care for her in a way that literally diseased her. She becomes loose, she drinks and she smokes. Her life turns at 180 degrees when she makes contact with the other three main characters of the novel: Paulette (an eighty years old woman with Alzheimer’s disease), Franck (the old lady’s nephew, a passionate and impulsive chef) and Philibert (the noble, stutter, semi-disinherited neighbor who cares for Camille). The novel’s story orbits around these 4 characters who come to live together in Paris, strongly outlining the relationships which derives from here and the „participants” evolution or involution.
Really interesting is the way Camille, a remarcable artist, gives up on that expensive life she had with a rich italian she replicated paintings for, and she chosed to be a cleaning lady. Some kind of a moral self-torture, turning Camille into a strong character, and not a weak one as the novel tries to relieve.
I guess the only lesson of the story is that mutual promise between characters that they’ll make a radical change in their lives at some point, that they’ll ask more from their lives. The novel ends with Camille and Franck being a couple and owners of their own restaurant. Paulette dies and Philibert steps outside the comfort zone and chooses a theatre career getting married with his stage colleague.
With an action set over a year, “Hunting and Gathering” is an easy reading novel, thanks to the free storytelling and its acts and scenes patterning.
Hint: There’s also a movie based on this book, from 2007, with Audrey Tautou (Amelie) playing Camille’s character.
Author: Aura Ilie // Photo by Etienne George