On se ment toujours. We are always telling ourselves lies. Such a powerful opening line. After reading Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, I wanted a quick read so I read the book My Wish List in one sitting, the English translation of the French novel La liste de mes envies written by Grégoire Delacourt. The English translation is by Anthea Bell.
We all have our wish lists. Some wishes will remain wishful thinking while some dreams can be achieved if we work hard and are determined enough. There are always things we regret and wish we had not got ourselves into some situations we are in or wish that we could have done things differently but would you really want to trade your life for the life of your dreams if you could ? What if you won the lottery ?
In My Wish List, Jocelyne Guerbnette lives in Arras where she runs a fabric shop and a successful blog about knitting, embroidery and dressmaking. She is married to the same man for twenty-one years and has raised two children who are living their own lives now. She is beginning to wonder what happened to those dreams she had when she was seventeen and whether her life could have been different. It is a familiar theme. One chance in seventy-six million, and it happened to her. She has won the lottery. Yet the protagonist somehow has a sense of ambivalence when she finds out that she has won eighteen million euros , 18,547,301 euros and 28 centimes to be exact .You would think that the answer is straightforward because with all those money, you could leave your mundane job, change your wardrobe, get the car and house you want, go places, dine in all the Michelin starred restaurants and pursue whatever luxuries that money can buy. Not Jocelyne. She tells nobody when she wins the lottery. She only tells her stroke afflicted father who lives in a present that lasts six minutes as he is suffering from dementia and every six minutes he will ask who she is and if her mom is coming to see him. The story is narrated in Jocelyne’s voice which is authentically female and the sensibility is quintessentially French.
In Jocelyne’s voice,
‘ Being rich means seeing all that’s ugly and having the arrogance to think you can change things. All you have to do is pay for it.’
Jocelyne makes her wish list. Her wishes are modest and she loves the life that she has had with her husband and in her hesitation, things spin out of control.