Dubray Books review:
Set in Paris in the late 1950s and early 1960s, The Incorrigible Optimists Club chronicles the teenage years and early adulthood of Michel – the child of parents whose families loathe each other in equal measure. With his home a constant battlefield, Michel prefers to be out playing 'baby-foot' in a local bistro, where he is befriended by a cast of chess-playing characters straight out of a Dostoyevsky tale. As in many of the great Russian novels, there is a terrible pathos and human tragedy at the heart of these émigrés’ stories that is nicely balanced by their love for and camaraderie with Michel. The broad canvas of this fine book takes in Communist Russia, Eastern Europe and the French Algerian War – all in a Parisian setting. We were so engrossed, it was all we could do to put this gripping story down.
Mary Burnham/Adrian White, Dubray Books Dun Laoghaire
"Paris, 1959. As dusk settles over the immigrant quarter, 12-year-old Michel Marini - amateur photographer and compulsive reader - is drawn to the hum of the local bistro. From his usual position at the football table, he has a vantage point on a grown-up world - of rock 'n' roll and of the Algerian War. But as the sun sinks and the plastic players spin, Michel's concentration is not on the game, but on the huddle of men gathered in the shadows of a back room...Past the bar, behind a partly drawn curtain, a group of eastern European men gather, where under a cirrus of smoke and over the squares of chess boards, they tell of their lives before France - of lovers and wives, children and ambitions, all exiled behind the Iron Curtain. Listening to this band of survivors and raconteurs, Michel is introduced to a world beyond the boundaries of his childhood experience, a world of men made formidable in the face of history, ideas and politics: the world of the Incorrigible Optimists Club."
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