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Thursday, March 17, 2011

P'tit Cadeau by Anel Viz

P'tit Cadeau by Anel Viz
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (450 pgs)
Other: M/M, Anal Play
Rating: 3.5 cherries
Reviewed by Foxglove

Ben, an American art professor on a painting sabbatical in the south of France, rents a room in an isolated village to avoid the tourist crush. There he meets his landlady's brother, the sensitive and childlike loner Jean-Yves, whom the locals consider simple minded because he is "different". Ben makes him his principal model and undertakes to build his self-confidence and prepare him to fend for himself.

Jean-Yves� has never had a friend before. As they grow closer, Ben comes to realize the extent of the young man�s emotional needs, and his total dependence and unbridled devotion frighten him. Has he taken on more responsibility than he can handle? Should he allow himself to fall in love with Jean-Yves when he knows their relationship must end when his sabbatical is over?

If you're in the mood for a long, leisurely, creative and cultural journey through France and Italy in the company of two beautiful men, then P'tit Cadeau is the novel for you. One of the strongest elements about this book was the depth of immersion into both France and the life of the artist. French phrases are sprinkled liberally throughout, some translated, some relying on context to get their meaning across. Plenty of time is spent describing Ben's artistic processes, how he sees a landscape or model or other subject that he wants to capture, effects of light and other environmental factors, deciding on the composition of the drawing or painting, materials to be used.

Jean-Yves is most definitely not feeble minded, nor really childlike -- he just hasn't had the chance, under his sister's suspicious and watchful eye, to spread his wings and be his own person. True, he is quite a bit younger than Ben and looks even younger than he is, but he has a rich inner life that, with Ben's friendship and influence, finally has a chance to flourish. Because the story is told in first person from Ben's point of view, we don't get to experience Jean-Yves' thoughts and feelings directly, only through the filter of Ben's perspective.

For me, the downside of this novel and the reason I gave it 3.5 cherries is that it gets so meandering in the long middle that it starts to bog down. Some of the scenes don't seem to either advance the plot or reveal character, they seem to exist purely for the purpose of more local color, and at times Ben's reservations about a relationship with Jean-Yves seem overly repetitive. One can always skim those parts, though, because the novel covers a lot of ground, in terms of miles, years, and character growth (especially that of Jean-Yves), and is definitely satisfying. Don't be thrown by the title or the reference to hustlers; while a few gay male prostitutes do show up in the story, they aren't a big part of it.

Overall, P'tit Cadeau is an enjoyable, insightful novel that transports the reader easily and is the next best thing to a private romantic European artists' retreat.

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