The original French title of this novel is Ensemble, C’est Tout, which is a much more fitting name for a book about a group of lost souls who eventually find happiness with each other. Camille is literally a starving artist, wasting away to skin and bones while working a completely unfulfilling job as an office cleaner in Paris. One day she falls ill and is rescued by Philibert, a sweet-natured but socially awkward aristocrat who is living in his family’s decaying ancestral home. Philibert also has a roommate named Franck, a talented chef whose filthy language is only matched by his even filthier lifestyle. Initially, the three of them living in one house seems like a recipe for disaster; but as they learn more about one another, they slowly build an unconventional family.
I think this is a perfect cold-weather book; it just begs to be read while snuggled up in a blanket and sipping something warm. At its core, it’s a fairly simple and predictable love story, with the hero and heroine hating each other at first, then slowly changing their minds. But Gavalda’s dreamy, transparent prose helps it to rise above a stereotypical chick-lit or romance novel. There’s something very thoughtful and smart about the book as a whole; I especially loved the descriptions of Camille’s art. The only thing that bugged me about the book is that sometimes the dialogue was hard to follow — there aren’t a lot of tags to indicate who’s saying what. There’s also a lot of jumping around between different characters’ perspectives, which can be distracting. Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to fans of love stories or French literature.