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How to Behave in a Crowd: A Novel (Paperback)
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A witty, heartfelt novel that brilliantly evokes the confusions of adolescence and marks the arrival of an extraordinary young talent.
Isidore Mazal is eleven years old, the youngest of six siblings living in a small French town. He doesn't quite fit in. Berenice, Aurore, and Leonard are on track to have doctorates by age twenty-four. Jeremie performs with a symphony, and Simone, older than Isidore by eighteen months, expects a great career as a novelist—she's already put Isidore to work on her biography. The only time they leave their rooms is to gather on the old, stained couch and dissect prime-time television dramas in light of Aristotle's Poetics.
Isidore has never skipped a grade or written a dissertation. But he notices things the others don't, and asks questions they fear to ask. So when tragedy strikes the Mazal family, Isidore is the only one to recognize how everyone is struggling with their grief, and perhaps the only one who can help them—if he doesn't run away from home first.
Isidore’s unstinting empathy, combined with his simmering anger, makes for a complex character study, in which the elegiac and comedic build toward a heartbreaking conclusion. With How to Behave in a Crowd, Camille Bordas immerses readers in the interior life of a boy puzzled by adulthood and beginning to realize that the adults around him are just as lost.
About the Author
Camille Bordas is the author of two previous books in her native French. How to Behave in a Crowd is her first novel written in English. Her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, her nonfiction in Chicago magazine. She teaches creative writing at the University of Florida MFA program in Gainesville.
“How to Behave in a Crowd joins the league of novels about adolescence persuasively told by adolescent narrators. ‘Who would care for a novel about us?’ asks one of Dory’s siblings. The answer is: everyone.” —The New York Times Book Review
"Smart, charming . . . . Izzy is a wonderful narrator, keenly observant, but also inherently caring and inadvertently astute, ironic, touching, or flat-out hilarious." —Heller McAlpin, NPR
“A sharp, sweet, and wry coming of age story. . . . About pretentious people but never pretentious, the story unfolds with humor and compassion.” —Kathleen Rooney, Chicago Tribune
"A deeply satisfying work of literary fiction.” —Booklist (starred review)
"Intriguing. . . . in its humor and sadness, beauty and bluntness, youthful perspective and mature insight.” —Publishers Weekly
"An utterly charming book—moving, witty, funny, and especially wonderful for the mature kind-heartedness of its view of humanity. Camille Bordas is an invaluable new voice." —George Saunders
"In How to Behave in a Crowd, six brilliant French siblings, reeling in the wake of their father's death, ask themselves a question, straight from Montaigne: 'How should we live?' To answer it they write novels, complete multiple PhDs, analyze almost everything, joke about everything else. Even if Salinger's Glass family moved to rural France I doubt they would conjure a tale this funny, humane and slyly philosophical. Camille Bordas' first novel in English is charm itself!" —Zadie Smith
"A tender, smart, and very funny novel. Isidore and his world are wonderfully particular and eccentric, but we will all recognize the painful-yet-thrilling experience of being on the cusp of adulthood. Bordas perfectly captures the special beauty of an adolescent: a brain as smart as any adult but with a heart uncorrupted by experience." —Dana Spiotta
"Camille Bordas will enchant her readers with this brilliantly dark story of an eccentric family negotiating with loss. She is J.D. Salinger as a French woman—what more could you want?" —Catherine Lacey
"Camille Bordas is completely brilliant. Soon she will lay waste to the sad landscape of American letters." —Jesse Ball
"At once tender and heartbreaking, yet also sharp and funny, How to Behave in A Crowd is a brilliantly rendered and utterly charming story about the idiosyncrasies and struggles of coming of age. This smart, gripping, witty novel is an absolute must-read." —Yasmine El Rashidi