A chance encounter changes the lives of Helena and Mancebo

What do Chinese notebooks, flowers, a set of opera glasses, a graveyard, and a chess set have in common?

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In Waiting For Monsieur Belliver, by Britta Rostlund, as the pages turn and you find yourself immersed in two very different lives of two very different people, you’ll find out.

Set in Paris in the modern day, this novel revolves around the day to day events surrounding Helena Folasadu and Mancebo. These two people have never met and live out their lives within a different cultural background.

Helena is a successful journalist, recently divorced, who is fighting her own set of demons. Mancebo is an Arab grocer with his little shop at the foot of Montmartre. Or so he says, though the location could be debatable. Each alternate chapter takes up the events of a long hot, but somewhat eventful, Parisian summer for both Helena and Mancebo.

Helena takes up an offer of employment on behalf of Monsieur Bellivier which involves secretive, mysterious work which Helena tries to get to the bottom of using all her journalistic prowess. Mancebo has been commissioned by Madame Cat, who lives across the road from his shop, to spy on her husband whom she suspects of having an affair. Both will be paid handsomely for their work.

There is light and dark within the chapters of this book. Helene is fighting depression and has deep internal dialogue as she goes about her days. She is questioning her life’s direction. We meet her young son, a very cranky Monsieur Caro, and a possible love interest. The characters, like herself, are very introspective which leads to a slightly darker plot line.

The light of this book radiates from the chapters devoted to Mancebo. We are introduced to an array of colourful, interesting characters. His wife Fatima, his cousin Tariq, and his wife Adele, and his son Amir.

As Mancebo takes his new profession very seriously, we are taken through a funny and very entertaining journey. He is an older man, set in his ways, under his wife’s thumb, distant from his son, but you pick up the underlying current of a desire to know that this is not all there is, that a humble grocer can make a difference and be “somebody”.  He wants to be respected, something he finds lacking in his own household.

How do these two worlds meet? Who is Monsieur Belliver and what does he have to do with Mancebo. Where and how do the two very separate stories intersect and entwine?

All I will say is, all will be revealed and, no, I did not see it coming.