I just finished “So you don’t get lost in the neighborhood“, the latest novel by Patrick Modiano, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2014. First, let me say that I wasn’t convinced by the universe of the author. I was certainly impressed by his writing, a classic sand impeccably mastered style, but I didn’t enjoy the story that I found deeply annoying.

The novel features a main character, Jean Daragane, who is a solitary and aging novelist. One day, he receives a phone call from a man named Gilles Ottolini, who claims to have found an address book belonging to him. Jean Daragane agrees to meet the man to get his belonging back, but the latter does not come alone : ​​he is accompanied by a mysterious woman. The couple questions Daragane about a certain Guy Torstel, whose name appears in the address book. This name does not remind anything to the novelist, who begins to feel uncomfortable in front of this strange insistence. He nevertheless accepts to search his memory and will have to face memories well buried.
I wasn’t familiar with the author before reading this book, and after I did some research I realized that all his novels have a similar story : a character with a blurry childhood, in search of his past and his identity.

I didn’t manage to immerse myself in Patrick Modiano’s universe. I found myself lost several times, not knowing at what time the scene I was reading was going. The characters interwine, the memories too. The author creates a deliberate confusion, similar to when you try to recall distant events. I found the story long and boring : we wait impatiently for something to happen, and when finally the plot seems to be unraveled… the novel abruptly ends.

Why I don't like Patrick Modiano.

However, even if I didn’t like Modiano’s universe, you may enjoy it if you fulfill one or more of the following criteria.

1 – You read to appreciate a writing style, not a story

It is undeniable, Modiano has a very beautiful writing, with a classic and perfectly mastered style. He knows what he wants to do with his novel and with his reader – unfortunately for the poor reader.
If you are passionate about literature, if you read mainly to appreciate the writing work of an author, you will certainly enjoy reading Modiano.

2 – You like convoluted narrative stories

“So you don’t get lost in the neighborhood” includes few dialogues, but a lot of descriptive narration. Very little is happening in this novel, but the main character walks through the maze of his memory and tries to get us lost while doing so. It’s poetic and almost “graceful”.

3 – You don’t like suspense or plot twists

Throughout the novel, Modiano puts several misteries in place, but he never resolves them. The book ends abruptly, we don’t know what happens to the characters present in the story.
I love suspense, mystery and plot twists, so this ending was really disappointing for me.

4 – You’re not afraid of narrations with different space-time

Throughout the novel, the author goes from one space-time to another and we end up lost in the corridors of time. Are we in the present era ? Twenty years earlier ? Is it a childhood memory of the character ? During some chapters, it’s pretty difficult to say and you must stay focused on the novel so as not to lose track. I like to let my mind wander when I read – especially when the story turns out to be boring… – and I had to go back a few pages several times.

If I were to summarize this book in one sentence, I would say it’s very well done technically, but I found the story too boring for my liking.

Did you read “So you don’t get lost in the neighborhood” ? I would be very curious to know your feelings about this book, or any other novel written by Patrick Modiano.

Review on "So you don't get lost in the neighborhood" by Patrick Modiano.

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