This is Life by Dan Rhodes

This is Life by
Trade Paperback, 423 pages
This is Life
Rating: 9/10


In a panic for an 'artistic' enough art project, college student Aurélie Renard decides to throw a stone in the air near a crowd, and use the person it comes closest to as her subject. She never dreamed that the rock would hit a baby. In the face. Or that his frazzled mother would decide to leave the baby with her for a week. (Who wouldn't, really? She has a kind face.) While Aurélie powers through her poorly thought-out art project and the management of a baby, a very unusual, controversial, and naked artist is preparing to stage a performance piece, intended to be a triumphant return to the hometown, Paris, that rejected him. While the artists are trying to express the important things in life, life has its own ideas in store for them.

Reason for Reading

I stumbled upon a list of people guessing what might be nominated for the Man Booker Prize and decided to pick out a few reads. The ones I picked out were wrong, but have resulted in some good books nonetheless.

Why you should read this book

Irresistible and fun, This is Life brings heart and heft to the unexpected directions that the novel takes. The premise of the novel sounds almost slapstick, but just when you think you've got the characters pegged, they become more complex and lovable...even - no, especially - when you're laughing hysterically at their misadventures. The characters are very real, even if their actions are crazy at times. Rhodes makes love at first sight (or picture) seem like a reasonable thing, and a naked artist's completely gross art project into something wonderful. A certain charm shines through both the characters and the writing style, making the book a pleasure to read. A perfect blend of the heartfelt and the hilarious absurdities of life, This is Life will win over almost any cynic.

Why you should avoid this book

Yes, the premise of a story hinging on a young woman hitting a baby in the face sounds terribly wrong and offensive, but I promise it's terribly wrong and offensive in a hilarious British way. Either that's your sense of humour, or it isn't.

Opening Paragraph

Aurélie Renard was standing on the west side of the small square. She struck a match against the wall, lit her fourth cigarette of the morning and tucked the dead stick back into the box. It was the tail end of the rush hour, and a stream of people rose from the exit of the Métro station and walked past her on their way to jobs in the streets beyond. On the other side of the square, intermittently visible through the passing bodies, sat a thick-bearded old man, wrapped in a heavy and ancient brown coat as he played a hurdy-gurdy. She enjoyed the rattle and drone they made together, and remembered it well. He wore a Russian hat, and it was because of this that Aurélie had always thought of him as The Russian. She really had no idea where he was from, or what his instrument was called. To her it was just that Russian instrument, and she didn't want to risk spoiling its magic by finding out too much about it.

Fabulous quotes

These romances always ended the instant she came to the realisation that the boy was not the one she was going to end up with. She felt this was the right thing to do, that stringing him along for a second beyond this moment or revelation would be dishonest and only make things worse for everybody. She would say, simply, It's over, I'm sorry and leave the room. One time the epiphany had struck her halfway through sex, and another time at the Christmas dinner table in front of the boy's entire extended family. Both had wept, one into the pillow, the other onto his roast goose.
She had given up on the idea of her project ever being a triumph: throwing stones at babies was never going to make for good art. Who in their right mind would ever want to hang a picture of a wounded child on their wall?

Also by

Anthropology; Don't Tell Me the Truth About Love; Timoleon Vieta Come Home; The Little White Car; Gold; Little Hands Clapping.

Fun Tidbit

Check out this list of book recommendations from Rhodes.

Would I read more by ?

Yes. Not a lot of books can make me laugh out loud.

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