Title: Dein Perfektes Jahr
Author: Charlotte Lucas
Published: September 2016, Germany
Format: Audio Book
Narrators: Devid Striesow & Anna Thalbach
This is a longer story. And it goes like this: When I was still on reduced working hours, I strolled through Velbert one afternoon. And I can’t stroll without visiting a book shop, if there’s one. It rarely happens that I am in town and don’t make a round through our local Thalia shop. One could think that in times of audio books and online subscriptions, there’s no need to visit a shop anymore, but that’s not true. I often discover new books in shops and only later look them up online.
So I went into the shop and while looking at what new books they had on display, someone said to me “can I inspire you with something?”. Funny thing is: I recently had a conversation with a friend about the word “inspiring” in the context of reading or choosing books because I always use that term. She said it would not be the correct term here. Maybe not in the English language, but in the German one it obviously is, since she used the same word that I always do ;-).
But I digress. I answered that I would be happy to get recommendations and she asked me what books I’ve recently read and liked. I named some of them and she was like “oh, so you’re more into intellectual books”. (She didn’t actually use the word intellectual, but you get the idea.) I said no, I’m open to pretty much anything, as long as it isn’t cheesy lovey-dovey stuff or same old same old crime. She freely admitted to me that she’s purely into “entertaining” literature and not so much into books that are “too heavy”. Fine.
One of the first books she then recommended to me was The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair: A Novel. by Joel Dicker.
**insert a huge raised eyebrow here**
Just in case you haven’t read my review about that book, click here to see what I think of it. It’s the official second worst book I’ve read in my life. (The #1 worst still being The Shack by William P. Young). So I was wondering if it was smart to take recommendations from a woman who thought that Harry Quebert was a great read. But I wanted to give her a chance and played along, yet telling her that the Quebert book was one of the badest books I’ve ever read (and she obviously was very astounded how someone could say something like that about such a great book). She piled up a few books and said she’d bring them over to the reading corner and I could take my sweet little time, checking them out and see if there’d be something that I’d fancy. I had nothing else on the plan that afternoon and so I agreed. In fact, even if there would be no book I’d like, I totally liked the fact that I had enough free time on my hands to just spend an hour or more in a book shop, sitting there, reading through a few books. That was the most enjoyable part about it.
This book that I’ll be talking about was one of the sales person’s favorites of this year. It’s a book that I would have almost bought only because of the cover and the whole design. It’s such a beautiful book to grace a book shelf. But I don’t have any more room for more books anyway and I’d be buying the audio book on top of it so that would be money wasted. I read a few pages and also checked Amazon for reviews. The overwhelming majority of readers loved the book. But then, the overwhelming majority of readers loved Harry Quebert, too. I began to ask myself whether I should even pay attention to reviews and recommendations anymore anyway or if I should simply go by my own gut feeling.
In the end I decided to check out this book. It was the first out of the stack she gave me. Others are on my list, the rest doesn’t seem to fit. She also gave me one of Juli Zeh’s novels. She’s the author of “Unterleuten”, my personal favorite of the year, and I want to check out all of her other books. And because of all the effort to “inspire” me and telling me so much about the books she recommended, I bought Juli Zeh’s novel as a paperback right there and then. Not sure if I’d read it as a paperback, but that was okay. I had told her that I’m an audio book fan and would most likely not buy anything today and she said that was totally fine and I should go ahead and take photos of the books I wanted. Nice. I mean, Thalia offers audio books as well… I didn’t tell her I’m an Audible subscriber. But here we are again with what I have said a while ago: buying from Amazon (and Audible belongs to Amazon) jeopardizes the stationary book shops and I don’t really want that. Gotta say though that I’ve also bought from Thalia before and will probably do so every now and then in the future. And hey… I bought the paperback, right? 😉
So that was the very wordy explanation of how I got hold of that book.
Here’s Jonathan. He lives in Hamburg, is divorced, spoiled, rich, and one of these annoying know-it-alls who keeps calling out people for every little bit he thinks isn’t right. He owns a renowned publishing house for high end literature and provokes the one or other eyeroll already on the first few pages. He doesn’t work that much himself, his managers and editors do most of the work. One 1st January morning he finds a bag hanging from the handlebar of his bicycle when he returns from his daily jogging around the Alster lake. In the bag is a Filofax. Each day of the calendar inside is filled with appointments for the complete year ahead. But not just events to attend … nice and fun events that is… but also tasks like “make a list of things that have made you happy today”, “write down what you’re thankful for” etc. Jonathan wonders about who has left that calendar on his bike and is sure, that’s a mistake because this can’t be for him. There’s no one in his life who would have a reason to do this. He thinks that this calendar should get back to the person it belongs to asap and so he sets off to find the owner of the calendar.
Then there’s Hannah. She is just about to open a new kindergarten that has a fresh new concept, together with her long-time friend Lisa. Hannah lives in a happy relationship with Simon. Everything seems perfect… until it isn’t anymore. And the reason is not, that their relationship is in trouble. Hannah is one of these fresh and optimistic characters who go through life with a positive attitude.
The chapters alternate between Jonathan and Hannah who don’t know each other but will meet at some point later in the book. But not during all the many occasions where you THINK they’ll meet. It’s not as predictable as it may seem. Supporting characters are a homeless guy and a tarot card reader who prefers to be called a counselor. And there’s Jonathan’s father, the original owner of the publishing house, a powerful patriarch in his heyday, now living in a nursing home suffering from dementia, with occasional clear moments…
While this won’t be a favorite as it was for the Thalia person, I thoroughly enjoyed that story and the characters. There was a bit of everything: it was partly funny, then also tragic and sad, there was a bit of romance, but there were also many thought-provoking moments. Then there’s that Filofax. I loved that Filofax so much! Not that we ever learn the full content of every page, but the idea behind it is the most wonderful thing ever. And there’s also a lot to think about and to project to our own lives and the way we live. Yes it was partly also a nice fairytale but it’s also a novel that is here to give the reader joy and entertainment and away-from-reality time. It’s perfect for rainy, grey and cold days that you spend all cuddled up on your couch with a coffee, tea or hot chocolate. A feel-good book, despite its serious and somber moments.
About the narrators: both Devid Striesow and Anna Thalbach are renowned and popular actors in this country. I liked how Anna narrated Hannah’s and the other female characters, but I wasn’t really happy with Devid’s interpretation. While I was halfway ok with Jonathan’s character, there were a couple others, one in particular, where he was sometimes even on my nerve. I rated him only three out of five stars. S, who has read and loved the book as much as I did however, had the opposite impression. She sometimes disliked Anna while being totally fine with Devid.
Yeah… different listeners, different experiences.
The images of the book are from the Amazon.de homepage. The shots were taken with my phone from the computer monitor. I’m not even sure if that’s allowed or if that’s a copyright problem. I hope it’s not. I just wanted to show you how nicely the book is done… although those poor-quality pics don’t really show the full beauty of it.