No & Me

No & Me Cover

Delphine de Vigan

A thought-provoking and searching novel about two very different teenagers and the true nature of homelessness. Lou Bertignac has an IQ of 160 and a good friend called Lucas, who gets her through the school day. At home her father cries in secret in the bathroom and her mother hasn’t been out of the house properly for years. But Lou is about to change her life – and that of her parents – for good, all because of a school project she decides to do about the homeless. Through the project Lou meets No, a teenage girl living on the streets. As their friendship grows, Lou cannot bear that No is still on the streets when she goes back home – even if it is to a home that is saddened and desolate. So she asks her parents if No can come to live with them. To her astonishment, her parents – eventually – agree. No’s presence forces Lou and her parents to finally face the sadness that has enveloped them. But No has disruptive as well as positive effects. Can this shaky newfound family continue to live together? A tense, brilliant novel tackling the true meaning of home and homelessness .
 Cover

Judy

This story is very unusual and exceptionally tender. It’s very French [naturally, since the author is French and it’s set in Paris] but what makes it so strongly Gallic is that the thirteen year old girl who narrates it does so in such a serious manner, socially responsible in a way we seem to have forgotten how to be in this country

Anyway, our young heroine, Lou, befriends a homeless girl as part of a school project. And her own comfortable middle-class life is suddenly blown apart, as she sees the terrible privations endured by her new vagrant friend, No.

But little Lou’s home-life is not so conventional after all. Her mother is almost catatonic with depression, after losing Lou’s baby sister to cot-death. Her father touchingly tries both to comfort his wife and help his sad little daughter, who is exceptionally bright, and gifted [or cursed?] with a precocious insight into the adult world, and its total inability to set right such basic injustices as girls like No, left to sleep rough at the Gare d’Austerlitz.

Lou takes No under her wing, even persuading her parents to let her live with them. Lou’s mother miraculously recovers from her depression while No stays there, but nothing is as simple as it seems.

This is not really a story about homelessness; rather a quirky, charming tale about how a clever but naive young girl comes to terms with the harsh realities of the adult world. It’s an exceptional read. I doubt you’ll come across such a simple, grave and charming story again.

R NO AND ME.

This is a deceptively simple story comprising less than 250 pages. Initially, No and Me feels like a brief, almost shallow exploration of the underground life of the Paris homeless. We’ve all read about cardboard cities which exist in parallel to conventional, acceptable society. So what’s new about this story?

Everything. No and Me is a brilliant piece of writing by Delphine de Vigan. That’s because she tells her tale through the eyes and with the voice of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl, Lou, who has precocious intelligence and a burgeoning social conscience. Think Lisa Simpson, without the jokes.

Lou has an IQ of 160, so when she meets No – who is five years older than her – at one of Paris’s main railway stations, they have a certain equivalence. But only intellectually – Lou comes from a comfortable, if dysfunctional, middle-class home; No is a vagrant living on the streets.

The girls bond, thanks to Lou’s determination to complete a school project on the city’s homeless. Gradually, No’s instinctive distrust gives way to acceptance and gratitude for Lou’s many small kindnesses. And, halfway through this increasingly emotional story, No comes to live with Lou and her parents.

That changes everything. No and Me is a novel full of surprises, tenderness, and wisdom. And it is a fabulous read, as well.

Delphine De Vigan talks to Richard and Judy

Reviews & Comments

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  • I can't wait to read this book. I think it is going to be a very exciting read.

    Oliver

  • I read this book a few months ago. Its an absolutely beautiful read and a few tears were shed along the way :) GREAT CHOICE!!!

    joanna

  • I like that this has such a unusual story line and am adding it to my to be read list.

    DJ Kirkby

  • wasn't sure straight away but now 100 pages in and loving it to pieces teh main character isn't just the sweetest Review coming next week!

    JOHN P

  • I literally coud not put this book down. Though the stlye of the book is written from the point of view of the child, as though she is somewhat recollecting what had happened, the story and how it unfolded gripped me. I loved the tense atmosphere between No and "Chip" and how it slowly developed into a fond friendship, although I disliked when No left I do believe that the book in all fairness was well written and well worth the read.

    SOPHIE MOGG

  • Thank you for recommending this book as part of your book club. I have just read it, and thought it was a wonderful read. Very moving and intelligent, a lovely, clever story.

    Lindsay H

  • I loved this book. Just couldn't put it down. Loved how it's written in the style of a monologue throughout. Deep insight into early teenage love, friendship and feeling left out. I could happily read again.

    Emily Oldham

  • Im going to like this book! Love the Book Club.

    willemien

  • Sounds fantastic, I think I understand what sort of a read this is and in the past have read books like it. Definitely going to have it read by December.

    Ross Merriman

  • This book is thought provoking, insightful and pulls on your heart strings. I can't say I found it enjoyable, but I don't think that it is written with that goal in mind. It has certainly left it's mark on me and will be one I remember for a long time to come.

    Anna

  • Just started this book and can already see what a skilled writer Delphine de Vigan is (especially compared to Rachel[!&@!$?]in A Place of Secrets, for example).

    The book is profound and insightful, with several lines I want to read again and again to savour them, such as: "And our silence is filled with all the world's impotence."

    It may be 'teenage fiction'; it is really, truly *excellent* fiction and I think everyone should read it.

    Charlotte

  • This is by far the most profound and insightful book I have read in ages. It is beautifully written with many phrases, lines, even whole paragraphs that express so eloquently the inequalities and injustices Lou finds in life.

    The story highlights the wide-ranging and inter-related problems of homelessness without being depressing. It retains an uplifting tone because there are various positive impacts of Lou and No's friendship, yet it avoids a sugary, fairytale ending.

    Definitely suitable for anyone aged 12 years and over - although there is some language and other references, be assured they are without explicit or unnecessary details (p103, p124, p246, and one other place I'm not exactly where). Also, adults will be able to read much more into the story than young teenagers might, making it more interesting than other 'teenage fiction'.

    However, I did find the ending a little flat - I would have liked to hear more of the characters' lives beyond where the story finishes; I suppose that is up to our imaginations. The only other slight criticism is that the book should have been better edited post-translation, eg for 'conservation agents' read 'preservatives', a minor issue for adult readers, but may be confusing for younger ones.

    Overall, a fantastic book, I recommend it to everyone, whatever their reading tastes.

    Charlotte

  • @Ross Merriman - unfortunately, your review is summary of the story rather than a review. The worst part is, it virtually gives away the ending of the story, spoiling it for anyone who has not yet read the book.

    If the moderators of these reviews were human, they should have prevented RM's review getting through: a) because of the 'spoiler', and b) because it is a summary of the book and not a review. (I say 'if they were human' because in someone's comment Rachel's surname has been obscured - a human moderator would have realised that was not necessary.)

    Charlotte

  • Really loved this book.

    Peak

  • An uplifting story demonstrating the innocence and kindness of the young...It will make you smile.

    Zoe-Hayley

  • I read this book in half a day. Literally. It is AMAZING and touched me to the very core. You can't help massively caring about all of the characters in this book and you get into it without even trying. The ending was shocking (to me, anyway) and I just don't really know what to do with my life now. WARNING: If you are planning on doing something else but read this book the day you start it, this book is not for you!!! hehe I couldn't put it down!

    hannah

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