Short summary - Consolation
The news of the death of a loved one makes the protagonist rethink and change his life.
The protagonist reminisces about his early school years, when he met his childhood best friend Alexis and his nanny Nunu, a transvestite. A sincere, close relationship developed between the three of them, which is not the case in the real life of the hero.
Architect Charles Balanda, 46, arrives home in Paris. He manages a complex construction site in Russia, he has a lot of problems with the builders there; He works on a rotational basis: all the time on the road. The hero lives with his common-law wife Laurence and her teenage daughter Matilda. Experiencing a family crisis.
Having bought a gift with the girl, the hero comes to a reception hosted by his parents in honor of his wife's birthday. The whole family is together: parents, sisters, sons-in-law, children. Charles is spiritually close to his younger sister Claire, he is especially glad to see her.
Watching his wife, the hero recalls how they met and he fell in love, how she and her little daughter left her husband for him, how quickly she began to cheat on him, how he worried. And now they fell out of love with each other.
Lighting candles on a birthday cake, the hero sees an envelope with a familiar handwriting. In a letter sent by an old childhood friend, the words: "Anouk is dead." Charles has a nervous breakdown. From this moment on, the narrative is Charles's memories of the past, of the people dear to him - Anouk and Alexis Le Main, whom he had not seen for a long time.
Charles begins a long journey through the waves of his memory. One of the first memories is the connection between his beloved sister Claire and Alexis in his student years. The novel ended in an abortion, because of which Claire is still unable to establish a personal life.
The next flashback depicts Alexis as a multi-instrumentalist and rock addict. After one of the concerts, the friends quarreled and parted.
His mother, Anouk, who became the strongest impression of Charles's childhood and youth, worked as a nurse and was very sorry for her patients, including those dying from a then new disease - AIDS. She loved and understood people, especially those deprived of something, supported them, which attracted Charles, who considered himself lonely in his family. Anouk was an optimistic and outrageous woman nineteen years older than Charles, which did not prevent him from being childishly in love with her and envying her son Alexis. She was a big soul and kind heart.
Having left for Russia for work, Charles never ceases to remember Anouk. He is sure that "she died just as she lived ... alone, alone ... Completely lost in this world, which was too small for her." And they killed her "ashtrays overflowing with cigarette butts, or drinking glasses of wine that never brought her relief ...".
Charles falls into a severe depression with phantom pain syndrome. Phantom pain is love for Anouk and remorse for not helping her when her only son, Alexis, is addicted to drugs.
Charles visits Anouk's grave in a remote area. Seeing an inscription on the monument that does not correspond to the image of the deceased, the hero corrects it in a fit of feelings. He calls Alexis after a 25-year separation and quarrels with him again.
Flying on a plane to a construction conference, the hero remembers himself, six years old, and the moment he met his classmate Alexis and his 25-year-old mother Anouk. It was then that he fell in love with her; she was beautiful and treated him like an adult. At the same time, an old transvestite entered the Le Men family - a circus performer Nunu, whom Anouk saved from despair and loneliness by offering to become her son's nanny. The boys and Nunu adored each other. Throughout Charles's childhood, the little company was happy.
Charles remembers Nuno's sudden death and the mystery surrounding it. Then the boys somehow quickly matured, and Alexis began to move away from his mother, which greatly upset her. Already a student, Charles still forced Anouk to tell the truth about the death of an old transvestite who was killed on sexual grounds.
The hero studied in another city and missed Anouk a lot, he missed their friendship. Then Charles realized that he truly loved her. The hero bitterly recalls how Anouk passed away when her son betrayed her for the first time, becoming a drug addict, how she slowly became an inveterate drunkard. And how he could not help her in any way and secretly rejoiced that the place next to her was vacated, because he was jealous of her son.
Excited by memories of a sad but happy past, the hero explains to his wife Laurence, letting her know that the position of a cuckold no longer suits him.
After leaving home and spending the night with his sister, Charles recalls the only intimacy that never took place with Anouk, when he could not be with her, because he was afraid to stop loving her after. Then they met as friends several times, gradually nullifying communication. The hero realizes that he betrayed Anouk just as much as her boyfriend, parents, son - everyone she loved before.
Returning to his wife, Charles, by inertia, tries to continue his former life, realizing that Anouk's death has changed him. He began to notice the hypocrisy of his relatives, colleagues and friends around him; it seems to him that he looks at the world with the eyes of the Anouk.
Anouk's friend, Sylvie, calls Charles and reveals that Anouk has committed suicide. At the meeting, the woman recalls how lonely her beloved was in recent years, betrayed by her son, excommunicated from her grandchildren, leaving her favorite job. She settled in a poor quarter among immigrants and treated them for free. Her funeral was attended by a huge number of grateful patients who gave the deceased a standing ovation. Alexis there, at the funeral, confessed to Sylvie that he was a bad son and repents.
After being shocked by what he heard and receiving a posthumous gift from Anouk, the hero is hit by a truck. After recovering, he decides to see Alexis.
Alexis Le Main lives with his family in the small town of Le Marzaire. He is glad for the arrival of Charles, seeing in this forgiveness from a friend and deceased mother. Having gone for the daughter of Alexis, who was visiting a friend, Charles finds himself in an unusual house that surprised him as an architect. The house, even the castle, is old, full of stylish things, animals and children. Among the children is the daughter of Alexis, who is similar in appearance and character to Anouk.
The mistress of the house, the estate of Le Vesperi, is a young woman Kate, who immediately liked him. The characters develop sympathy and trust in each other. Kate tells about the only meeting with Anouk, who supported and felt sorry for her then, who needed help. This is a sign of fate for Charles, who seems to have met his beautiful past.
At night, former friends have a heavy conversation. It turns out that Alexis ignored his mother in order not to become addicted to drugs again, from which he had difficulty recovering. He was jealous of Anouk for Charles all his life, which is why he became a drug addict. He was saved from addiction by his mother and wife Korina, the mother of his two children. The wife could not stand Anouk, so the son had little contact with her and did not allow children. Friends came to the conclusion that they together killed Anouk, who loved them so much.
In the morning, Charles attends a children's party where Alexis plays music. The hero sees Kate and says goodbye to her before leaving home. Charles considers his mission of memory fulfilled. Halfway through, he turns back, realizing that he cannot leave Kate the way he once abandoned and lost Anouk. He participates in a children's school party by secretly watching a girl.
Charles gradually becomes involved in the life of Kate's large family, which has five children. The family runs a large subsistence economy, they manage everything themselves. Simplicity, hospitality, cheerfulness, charm attract children and animals from all over the town to this family. Charles falls under the charm, immediacy of the heroine and falls in love with her and all the inhabitants of the old castle. The girl tells him the history of the castle, later her sad story.
Kate is the guardian of five children. Her sister and husband died in a car accident a few years ago, she takes care of her three orphaned nephews and two other people's orphans. Having accidentally found this house, they moved here from the city, because the children were happy here. The girl became a guardian at the age of 26. She had to completely change her life: leave her scientific work, part with her fiancé, lose her next lover, almost get drunk, but stop in time (on the advice of Anouk), become a villager.
Kate had already lost hope for personal happiness when Charles appeared, who immediately liked her. And now she fears that he will be afraid to look after the mother of a large, noisy family. And Charles enjoys the sincerity of relations in this "commune", besides, Kate reminds him of Anouk so much.
Coming out of depression and finding peace of mind, Charles leaves for Paris to make an important decision. He urgently arranges all his affairs, leaves Laurence, rents an apartment. For a long time she cannot tell anyone about a new important acquaintance and, finally, she shares it with her beloved sister Claire. She immediately perceives Charles's relationship with Kate as a gift from the past from Anouk. The lovers exchange meaningful postal parcels.
Realizing that he is in love, the hero returns to Le Marser. He is happily accepted by Kate and the children. The heroes do not confess their mutual feelings to each other for a long time, fearing to be disappointed again. Charles repairs the dilapidated castle without male hands. He invites his daughter Matilda and sister Claire to stay here.
The arrival of loved ones gives him courage. A massive game of petanque (balls) takes place in the village square; Charles's team loses and is awarded a consolation game - just like that, without points, for the sake of pleasure (which will be the life of the heroes from now on - pleasure).
The characters confess their love to each other and finally get closer. It was decided that Kate's eldest son, Sam, would live with Charles in Paris and study there. The heroes will often visit each other so that Charles can continue to work. He is planning several projects in the village, near Keith's castle.
Charles and Alexis rebury Anouk and Nuna in neighboring graves in the Le Marzere cemetery: now the loved ones of their childhood are always together and next to them. At the funeral, a friend points out to Charles that Kate resembles Anouk and is a good sign. The hero takes care of and loves Sam and Matilda, who live with him, just as Anouk once adored two boys - Charles and Alexis. Having repaid old debts and forgave all insults, the hero finds inner harmony in personal happiness.