As with Eleanor, the unnamed narrator is strange and outwardly unlikeable, particularly in the beginning. He is a deeply fallible character: his disregard for his patients, his fear of being called upon to help people, his admission that he doesn’t want Agatha to be cured by anyone but himself: “I know it was egotistical, but I’d rather she remained ill.” The honesty is startling at times. His views on old age are forthright and refreshing: “Why – it always started the same way – does nobody tell you what happens to the body as it grows old? About the sore joints, the surplus skin, the invisibility? Aging, I thought, as the bitterness flushed through me, was mainly about observing the differences between one’s self and one’s body get bigger and bigger until eventually one awakes a total stranger to oneself.”
Although the book is slight – 147 pages – it is a shrewd, skilful tale of loneliness, the search for meaning and a place in the world, and the problems of truly relating to another human being. The ending is sorrowful and joyful.
In the mould of A Man Called Ove, this diverting, rather sweet, physician-heal-thyself tale has been a huge international bestseller. Set in the suburbs of Paris in the late Forties, it’s narrated by an unnamed psychiatrist who, at nearly 72, is just five months and 800 sessions away from retirement.... As the facts of her life emerge — she’s the daughter of a blind watch repairman — so, too, do the book’s themes: the invisibility of age, the blinkers of habit . . . yes, the doctor’s own afflictions.
Bomann is a psychologist herself, and, although her at-a-sitting debut is on the slight side, she effectively makes her case for the importance of opening one’s eyes and heart.