Plot: Arthur Dreyfus is a young mechanic, living in a small town and not expecting anything unusual to happen. So when Scarlett Johansson turns up on his doorstep, Arthur has no idea what to do other than to invite her into his heart and home.
It doesn’t take him long to realise she is not what she seems. In fact, she is not Scarlett at all, but just a young woman who looks so like her that she can’t live her own life. Arthur must learn how to express his love while Jeanine must learn to accept who she is.
Quote: `In the forest his eyes shone, his awkward body moved more easily, like a dancer’s, and she had the impression that he skated over the dead leaves like a water bug on a pond.`
Opinion: The First Thing You See is the type of book that left me confused for most of it as to whether I was enjoying the novel or not. Looking back once I had finished it, I realised there was a certain charm to it. Grégoire Delacourt is a French author, enjoying praise and awards over in France. This book has been translated into English. While the translation itself is flawless, there are still a lot of French names throughout the book. Having no understanding of French, I found they tripped me up on occasions and detached me from the story. However, that is not something that should put you off from the book at all.
The characterisation within the novel is interesting to say the least. Both Arthur and Jeanine are extremely damaged characters, and the missing pieces of their hearts is what enable them to connect in the first place. But the uncertainty the characters are feeling is explored through the narration style. While it is third person, it is far more detached than I’m used to reading. It even uses the characters’ last names as much as their first. It feels like an overview of their emotions rather than connecting deeply to them.
The other thing that made me uncertain about this novel is the amount of unnecessary information. There are long, rambling passages about things that do not seem connected. With the French names often infiltrating these passages, it made it hard to stay engaged with the text.
The final thing that left me unsure about this novel was the lack of speech marks. It is disconcerting to read an entire passage and to realise afterwards it was someone speaking. It makes you read it in a whole different light. But because of the rambling passages, you are never sure whether it is speech or not.
Overall, I was in a state of bemused confusion for the majority of this book. However, when looking back on it in order to write this review, I can say there is a certain charm about it. The characters are so flawed with their tragic pasts that you want them to find their happy ending.