“The One Thing Worth Doing” – John Pope

Having come across John Pope’s novel thanks to the Paris Anglophone Book Club, it was an extremely interesting insight into the finished product of a self-published book. Even though there were little bits & pieces of the narrative that were a bit less appealing to me, in general it was a pleasant read. There was a smooth flow to the style and it got better and better as the story progressed. I really enjoyed the different perspectives the story was told from, which gave it more depth. Especially for those who have lived through the experience of adapting to Paris as a foreigner, there will be countless descriptions that will make you smile and nod your head in recognition.

Every room of Cliff’s mind seemed to be well-lighted, comfortably furnished. He handled ideas in an almost tactile way, giving them an extra twist that showed he’d thought several steps ahead.

p. 175

The refrigerator began its lonely, indifferent drone, a background not just for their solitude, but that of the other occupants of the building, the city, the whole planet. Everyone ultimately alone, yet together in the sense of all playing the same rigged game, where the present was inscrutable, where at best you could know what the right choices were only after the present had become the distant past.

p. 257

Having read the book during the context of multiple COVID-19 related lockdowns and curfews, the descriptions of Paris made you dream about better times and the beautiful sides of the city. Reminiscing hopping from cafés, to restaurants, over to bars and parting ways with friends at 3am, being able to stay out, being able to fully live your life & not be locked up within one’s apartment. The author’s admiration for the “City of Lights” clearly comes across and his fascination for it is contagious.

The part that I had the most difficulties with, was the beginning, which was a pity since it made the book quite difficult to get into. The story follows Martin, the main character, throughout his transition from a Silicon Valley programmer into a real estate owner in Paris, France. To me it felt like a book that would be more appealing to men who have a background knowledge in coding and finance. It was quite noticeable that the story was told from a male perspective, as female characters weren’t given as much depth and mostly had marginal roles within the storyline.

Some points that stood out to me, which might be linked to the book being self-published, were the presence of several typos within the text (the ones I spotted were on p. 59, p. 115 & p. 117 ). These would be worth correcting for future editions, since as far as I understood, the book is printed on demand upon your purchase (if you decide to go for the paperback version). Being the Grammar Nazi that I am, seeing the word “sorta” in print made me cringe a tiny little bit and I was disappointed to see old stereotypes around the number of sexual partners being reinforced in writing:

“Prove it. How many women have you slept with?”

Sébastien guessed, then divided by ten. His eyes narrowed. “You, how many guys?” She knew her own number exactly, and doubled it.

p. 111

Most importantly though, I was fascinated by the versatility of the writing. From stock investments, to discussions about art and education, to the philosophy within relationships. There were quite a few passages which made me reflect on my own ideas and beliefs. I was really glad to see how the main character’s relationship was rounded up, avoiding age old cheesy clichés. On top of that, arriving at the end of the book, you finished it feeling really satisfied (even though I normally am not a fan of open endings, but this one was masterfully crafted). Leaving you this book as a secret little suggestion, if you’re curious about reading a story with a realistic view onto life in Paris.

“The One Thing Worth Doing” – John Pope

★★★☆☆ (3/5)

Edition: ISBN 978-0-578-74674-6
Self-published, 2020

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