cover image My Wish List

My Wish List

Gregoire Delacourt, trans. from the French by Anthea Bell. Penguin, $15 (176p) ISBN 978-0-14-312465-8

The melancholy protagonist of Delacourt’s novel, the first by this French author to be published in English, has the chance to answer a perennial hypothetical question, “What would you do if you won the lottery?” Jocelyne, a 47-year-old shop owner, knitting blogger, and empty nester in Arras, France, wrestles with how to spend her €18.5 million jackpot. “I think of myself, of all that will now be possible for me, and I don’t want any of it,” Jocelyne laments. She hides her lottery check in her shoe, and keeps the news of it from her husband, Jocelyn (oddly, the two have nearly identical names); their grown-up daughter, Nadine; and their son, Romain, confessing only to her stroke-afflicted father, who quickly forgets what Jocelyne has told him. While she compiles her touchingly ordinary wish lists, Jocelyne’s business booms, her blog readers multiply, and her morose husband—who was previously cruel and distant because of a still birth in their past—grows tender. This dark fable about how money changes everything, and nothing, was a bestseller in France, and the aching need for comfort, safety and love that it describes is universal, even if Jocelyne’s ambivalence toward big money may puzzle American readers. Agent: Jessica Purdue, Orion. (Apr.)