Sunday, October 31, 2021

Weekend Review: List of My Desires

The List of my Desires / Gregoire Delacourt
translated from the French by Anthea Bell
London : Phoenix, 2014, c2013
214 p.

Jocelyne is 47, slightly overweight, in a dull long-term marriage, and works at a dressmaking shop. She's also just started a sewing blog, and has been convinced by her best friends (twins who run a hairdressing shop) to buy a lotto ticket, for the very first time. And then she wins 18 million Euros.

She is so shocked that she doesn't tell anyone, just hides the cheque in a shoe and starts to wonder what to do with it. She doesn't want this to disrupt her placid life of small desires, even if it isn't that great. She's worried that having so much money will change everything; even the lawyers she met in Paris to pick up her cheque have warned her that sudden wealth can be dangerous. 

Jocelyne had to give up her dreams at 17, when her mother died, and she seems to have boxed herself in to not wanting much because of it. She puts up with her boring relationship, she plods along in her daily routine, and when she suddenly has the chance to change everything up, she's afraid to. 

She begins to make a list of her desires: a new bathmat, a coat, maybe a visit to her daughter in England...small desires indeed. Although, as she notes, these things are important:

Because our needs are our little daily dreams. The little things to be done that project us into tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, the future; trivial things that we plan to buy next week, allowing us to think that next week we'll still be alive.

But despite her caution, and her insistence to herself that everything is just fine the way it is, things go wrong and great wealth does indeed corrupt her intimate circle. Jocelyne must carry on, and she does, with her new sewing blog taking off and making her new friends, opening up new opportunities that will improve her life on a more human scale than 18 million Euros would. It's a poignant story of money & desire, questioning whether it's really okay to want more, and what it means to our sense of self to have a sudden change like this. I'm sure everyone has thought about what you might do if you won the lotto, the changes you'd make to your life or the things you would buy or places you'd visit. This book makes you think about your desires and their scope, and would be a great discussion starter. If you don't mind a little French sentiment in your reading, this small book might be a great choice for you.  

Also, one of my favourite elements of the book is the fact that it's Jocelyne's work with fabric and haberdashery, and the creative outlet of her sewing blog, which anchors the book. When she's visiting a large fabric store in Paris the day she is wandering around stunned at her win, she says

My hands plunge into the fabrics, my fingers tremble at the contact with organdie, fine felt, jute, patchwork. I feel the intoxication... All the women here are beautiful. Their eyes shine. Looking at a piece of fabric, they already imagine a dress, a cushion, a doll. They make dreams; they have the beauty of the world at their fingertips.

I think that's a statement that all my readers here can appreciate. 


  1. This book sounds intriguing! From your review I think it has concepts which certainly impact on so many people, and I love the idea of the sewing blog inclusion. I have put a hold on it at my library.

    Could you comment on the effect of having a sewing blog yourself? And a very successful one. Particularly reflecting on the comment above '....her new sewing blog taking off and making her new friends, opening up new opportunities that will improve her life on a more human scale....'.

    I am always interested in the sociology aspects of what goes on in life.

  2. Glad that this book intrigues you Sara! I wouldn't say that there is much in the book specifically about the blog, just a couple of mentions later on, and it does play a role in the plot. Jocelyne finds her voice by writing, and connects with some of her readers, who then enlarge her life by connecting her with new people -- and her life grows. I thought it was a good representation of how sharing your sewing and writing can expand your enjoyment of it!

    It's kind of you to say my blog is a successful one -- I think it's just a personal project that I really enjoy. I know that since I started writing it regularly, I've made new connections (like you!) that are really meaningful for me. And I love sharing what I do, and it also keeps me actively sewing, thinking about what I would like to share next. I feel more connected to the sewing world in general because of it, and this has led to me getting involved in my local sewing community too - like starting our Garment Guild. So I do think that having this way of sharing what I love with others who appreciate it also has only improved my experience of it and increased my enjoyment.


Share your comments, ideas or suggestions here -- I am always interested in hearing from readers. It's nice to have a conversation!