Short summary - Hunting and Gathering - Anna Gavalda

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Hunting and Gathering
Anna Gavalda

A lyrical story about loneliness in a big city. By uniting just together, single losers help each other solve problems and find happiness.

Part 1

Lonely old widow Paulette Lestafier, who lives in her own house with a garden, falls seriously ill and ends up in the hospital. She is visited by her only grandson, Frank, who cannot take care of her due to her busy work schedule. Her daughter does not keep in touch with her, arranging her personal life. Most of all, the old woman is afraid of getting into a nursing home.

The former artist, 27-year-old Camille Fok, is mentally and physically exhausted. She works for a cleaning company and barely makes ends meet. For several years she has been living in a state of deep stress and is very lonely. She meets her housemate, Philibert, a strange, clumsy young man, also lonely.

Camilla lives in the attic of a decent house in a cold room with no amenities, which Kessler's friends rent for her, helping her. They persuade her to continue drawing after a protracted creative crisis.

Franck Lestafier is a chef in a restaurant who is completely immersed in his work. He has debts, so he works almost seven days a week. The news about the illness of his beloved grandmother becomes a problem for him: he has no time to take care of her.

Camilla meets her mother in a cafe. Dates are rare, as the mother is a hypochondriac, always depressed, and blames her daughter for this. Including because of her, the heroine does not draw. After her mother leaves, the girl begins to draw right on the tablecloth in the cafe.

Camilla remembers her childhood and her favorite art teacher. He taught her to draw with ink and told the story of a Chinese artist who went mad from loneliness and grief. The teacher considered her talented, urged her not to give up drawing, which was able to maintain her peace of mind, and bequeathed her his brushes and paints.

Pauletta improves her health in a sanatorium and is happy that Frank visits her.

Camilla ennobles her attic and invites Philibert to visit. He strikes the girl with a wide education and aristocratic manners. He says that he sells postcards and is fond of history. Despite the dissimilarity, young people begin to make friends.

Frank is faced with a dilemma: put his grandmother in an almshouse where she does not want, or take care of her himself, which he cannot. He suffers from hopelessness and yet begins to register the old woman in a nursing home.

Camille falls ill in a cold attic. Worried, Philibert brings her to his apartment and nurses her. When she recovers, Frank notices her, renting a room in Philibert's large apartment, which he inherited.

Part 2

Frank almost does not communicate with Philibert, considering him a strange and mannered klutz. Seeing a thin and shaved Camilla, he tries to warn a neighbor about the danger of settling anyone, but he shows a cold attic where she fell ill. Frank begins to feed the girl, who is on the verge of nervous and physical exhaustion. After recovering, she begins to paint.

Camille is friends with Philibert, and keeps an unfriendly distance with Frank. Philibert talks about his childhood, unhappy because of his shyness, lack of communication skills and indifference of his parents. He still experiences certain problems in communication, sometimes he stutters, therefore he cannot realize himself as a historian. His parents - wealthy landowners - do not notice the difficulties of their son. Frank is jealous of his flatmates, who do not invite him to their company because of his ostentatious rudeness and rusticity.

Franck visits Paulette at the nursing home, she is depressed. He convinces the old woman that he cannot constantly take care of her, because he works a lot and hard. Grandmother is offended by her grandson, because of this he is nervous and takes out evil on his neighbors in the apartment.

Philibert persuades Camille to ignore Frank's aggression - he appreciates her as his only friend and does not want her to move out of his apartment. After a serious skirmish with a drunken Frank, the girl still decides to leave, but suddenly he apologizes to her for his inappropriate behavior and promises to move out himself. For the first time they are friendly, and Frank vaguely hints at his worldly problems.

Camilla realizes that she has found herself at a dead end in life and, inspired by her friendship with the kind and attentive Philibert, she begins to return to creativity.

Christmas is coming. Philibert leaves for relatives, and the lonely Camille and Frank celebrate together, listening to their favorite music. He gives her a scarf knitted by her grandmother especially for her, and realizes that he is falling in love.

On New Year's Eve, Frank invites a girl to work with him in a restaurant as an assistant cook. Her dishes are admired by staff and customers. At night, they sort things out: Frank likes his flatmates for their intelligence and education, he regrets that his intellectual and educational level is lower than theirs. Camille invites him not to move out, but to continue living together, as they make up a good company of losers.

Part 3

Fascinated by Philibert's apartment full of antiques, Camille paints it, and Frank reverently joins art for the first time. Together they equip the apartment and meet Philibert, who returned after the holidays. All three understand that they draw the missing vitality from each other, and the landlord begins to stutter less. They sign a playful Charter on the rules of living together and live in peace and friendship.

Having thawed her soul, Camille begins to make friends at work with an immigrant Mamadou and settles a tramp drug addict Vincent with a dog in her empty closet.

She goes with Frank out of town, to his friends. There he tells her to draw, realizing that she is talented. At night, he tells her the sad story of his childhood. He is an illegitimate child abandoned by his mother. He was raised by his grandparents, whom he loved very much. At the age of ten, he was taken into his family by a suddenly appeared mother. But no one fell in love with him there, all the tenderness went to his half-brother.

Returning him back, the mother slandered her parents, exposing them to her grandson as cruel and unfair. Being in a transitional age, Frank hated his grandparents, became an uncontrollable teenager, ruining his youth. Camille sympathizes with her friend and feels herself falling in love with him.

They visit Paulette together. She is depressed and expects her grandson to take her to him. But when she sees Camille, the old woman forgets and calms down. The girl and Paulette like each other, the old woman is happy for her grandson and decides to live here a little more. The situation in the nursing home makes a depressing impression on the girl and she has a plan, which she shares with Philibert.

After her birthday, Camille announces to her friends that Paulette will now live with them, and she herself will leave work and become her nurse. They take the shocked old woman from the almshouse.

Part 4

At first, friends are not too comfortable living next to an elderly person, and Pauletta is embarrassed by them, but gradually everyone gets used to it. They feel that the four of them are happy. Paulette fell in love with her grandson's friends and became very friendly with Camille.

On the advice of a girl friend, Philibert enters an amateur theater, plays and writes plays.

Homeless drug addict Vincent, who lives in Camille's room, tells her about his loneliness, illnesses and admits that she saved him and returned the taste to life. The girl draws him and takes a promise to be treated.

Pauletta visits her grandson at work. Seeing that he is respected by the employees, she cries with happiness, remembering how hard he studied to be a cook. The old woman gets worse, they buy her a wheelchair; on it Camilla carries the patient to museums and exhibitions.

The girl thinks about the exhibition of her own works and turns to the gallery owners Kesslers. Having met them in her youth at the School of Fine Arts, Camilla fell in love with the kind childless spouses, and they took care of her like a daughter. Showing drawings depicting Franck, Philibert and Paulette, the girl realizes that they have become her family and she is happy with them.

Her artistic manner changed, gaining the confidence of a calm person. “She shook herself, changed her skin, blew up the granite blocks that had prevented her from moving forward for so many years…”. Gallery owners are delighted with her paintings and promise to soon exhibit the work.

For the first time in many years, the girl is satisfied with herself. That evening they have a frank conversation with Frank. Camille tells him about her past. Her mother, a psychopath, tormented her father all her life - a quiet, intelligent person who introduced her daughter to art and creativity. When he died, Camilla became numb, and only her beloved art teacher and creativity brought the girl back to normal life.

She left home and did not communicate with her sick mother for many years. She lived with different men, fell in love, worked for different adventurers, forged paintings by masters. Tired of crime, she quit painting. Now she has resumed relations with her mother, but she meets her extremely rarely, because she always blames her daughter for all her problems.

Shocked, Frank rides a motorcycle through Paris at night, ponders what he heard and regrets the girl. Falling in love even more, he buys her flowers, returns, and the first intimacy occurs between them.

Part 5

The flight gets worse. To cheer up his grandmother, Frank takes her to her own old house with a garden. Camille loves the house. It seems to her that she has been here for a long time and knows everything. The old woman comes to life in her favorite place and teaches the girl how to garden. Friends often come here and have a wonderful time.

On Easter, friends are invited to visit Philibert's parents in the family castle. They are surprised by the cold official reception and the indifference of parents to their son. Dissatisfied with the tasteless treat, Frank prepares a festive dinner that everyone likes. Without regrets, they leave the inhospitable castle. On the way home, Philibert asks them to be witnesses at his wedding.

Frank suffers from complexes: it seems to him that Camille does not love him, and he is dying of love. He tests her: he drinks, does not come to spend the night, flirts with girls. Camilla does not confess her love to him, fearing to be abandoned, deceived and lonely again.

They are present at the performance of the theater studio, where Philibert and his fiancee, the little clown Susie, are performing. Philibert presents the history of his kind by stepping on stage in medieval armor. And then he reveals his soul to the audience, telling the sad story of his lonely life. In the finale, he thanks those who supported him in difficult times and endowed him with their friendship. And then, right on stage, he proposes to his beloved.

Philibert marries and moves in with his wife, Frank and Camille feel lonely without him.

Pauletta is weakening, but does not allow herself to call a doctor: she is afraid that she will be returned to the almshouse. Frank is tormented by heart uncertainty, and Camille is afraid of a serious relationship.

Pauletta and her girlfriend go to the countryside for the summer, to Lestafier's old house. The grandson and Philibert and his wife visit them. Camille thinks a lot about her relationship with Frank, afraid to make a decision.

Philibert says the apartment is for sale and they will have to move out.

Before dying, Pauletta remembers her late husband and dies in her sleep in the garden. Frank does not have time to say goodbye to his grandmother. The old woman bequeaths her house to Camilla. After the funeral, one of the local residents tells them about Pauletta's youthful bold act. The touched Frank is crying. He leaves and Camilla repaints the house.

Frank quits and finds work abroad. Camilla still does not understand her feelings, although she understands that she will disappear, left alone again. Seeing off Frank at the station, she can not confess her love to him. Suddenly he gets off the train and stays with her, she cries and finally reveals her heart to him.


With the help of Camille, Frank buys a cafe and works there as a chef, and Philibert as a head waiter. Laudatory articles are written about their institution in the press. Friends gather around them, all those who are no longer alone, because JUST TOGETHER with them.