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Last Updated on January 12, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1085

Author: Delphine de Vigan (b. 1966)

Translator: George Miller

First published: No et moi,2007, in France (English trans., 2009)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Realism

Time of plot: Present day

Locale: Paris, France

Principal characters

Lou Bertignac, an intelligent thirteen-year-old girl

No , an eighteen-year-old homeless...

(The entire section contains 1085 words.)

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Author: Delphine de Vigan (b. 1966)

Translator: George Miller

First published: No et moi,2007, in France (English trans., 2009)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Realism

Time of plot: Present day

Locale: Paris, France

Principal characters

Lou Bertignac, an intelligent thirteen-year-old girl

No, an eighteen-year-old homeless woman

Lucas Muller, a seventeen-year-old classmate of Lou's

Anouk Bertignac, Lou's mother

Geneviève, No's friend

Mr. Marin, Lou's teacher

Chloe, Lou's deceased baby sister

The Story

Thirteen-year-old Parisian Lou Bertignac is brilliant, so much so that she has been advanced two years above her age group at school. Her intelligence comes at a cost—she has difficulty connecting with her classmates, all of whom are fifteen or older—and her social struggles are exacerbated by problems at home: after the death of her baby sister four years earlier, Lou's mother retreated into herself, and her father, overwhelmed by everything, grieves as well. Courtesy of Bloomsbury USA

Delphine de Vigan.

Courtesy of Delphine Jouandeau

When Mr. Marin, Lou's social and economic sciences teacher, assigns his students to do presentations before the class, Lou claims as her topic the first thing that comes to mind: homelessness, which she will research by conducting a series of interviews with a young homeless woman. Incidentally, she has just recently met a homeless young woman at the Austerlitz train station, where she often goes to watch people after school. Lou's loneliness, combined with her social anxiety, leaves her open to forming a relationship with the woman, named No. When the older girl starts paying attention to her and they begin to establish their friendship, Lou is drawn in by an unfamiliar sense of belonging. "When I was there with No," she narrates, "you could have drawn a circle around us, a circle I wasn't excluded from, which enclosed us and for a few minutes protected us from the world." Lou's presentation goes better than she could have imagined, but her success means she has no official reason to continue her relationship with No. Since the older girl's attention has been such a source of emotional security for her, Lou is hesitant to let the friendship go, and she approaches her parents with the idea of having No live with them.

This request changes Lou's life. Her mother seems to come out of the funk she has been in for years, immediately agreeing to the idea. After No moves in, Lou's mother begins to reenter the real world, improving the family's emotional health. No seems to be doing better as well, until she takes on a job at a local hotel. When Lou and her parents leave town to help an extended family member, they leave No alone at their apartment. Unfortunately, No betrays their trust, and Lou's father feels he must ask her to leave.

Lou convinces Lucas, an older classmate from school, to open his home to No. At seventeen, Lucas has been held back twice, and he has his own set of emotional and family issues to deal with. He lives alone in an apartment paid for by a wealthy but absent father, so there is no question about his ability and willingness to allow No to move in, especially when this move allows him to become closer to Lou.

The novel draws to a close with Lou choosing No over her family. No lets Lou think they will escape together, but then she disappears, leaving Lou to return home and to the embrace of her family, whose healing has begun.

Critical Evaluation

No and Me tells a haunting story of two young women who are starved for affection. Lou has suffered from emotional detachment from her parents since the death of her baby sister, Chloe, four years earlier. Her mother has been hospitalized, so depressed that she is not functioning, and even when she is home, she does not interact with Lou or her husband. Lou's father tries his hardest, but caring for a sick wife and raising a brilliant but socially awkward daughter is more than he can deal with, and he often locks himself in the bathroom and cries. Lou's desire to feel emotional attachment leads her to sit in a train station to watch people as they interact.

No is also hungry for attention, but unlike Lou, whose family cares for her even though they are not coping with their issues appropriately, No does not have parental figures in her life. She is the product of rape, and her mother has never taken care of her; the grandmother who did love her died when she was a small child, and her grandfather did not feel he could raise her, so he allowed her to be taken into foster care.

Lou and No cling to each other in a comparatively unhealthy way. The story's ending shows Lou choosing No over her parents and running away with the older girl, only to be mysteriously abandoned by her friend. No's departure without Lou could be interpreted as a caring gesture, based in the knowledge that Lou would be better off going home, or it could be interpreted as a selfish desire to continue caring only for herself rather than having to be responsible for the younger girl.

Author Delphine de Vigan provides a thought-provoking look at some major social and ethical issues. As Lou becomes more aware of No's life, she begins to see homelessness in a new way, identifying contradictions in the way homeless people are treated. The authentic first-person narration exposes readers to the thought processes of someone who sees the world in a very different way. Because of this limited perspective, which denies readers access to the thoughts of No or adults such as Lou's parents, the reader must experience and try to understand the significant emotional and social struggles explored in the book along with Lou. Though the story takes place in Paris and was originally published in French in 2007 before being translated into English two years later, its themes prove universal.

Further Reading

  • Hahn, Daniel. Review of No and Me, by Delphine de Vigan. The Independent, 28 Feb. 2010, www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/no-and-me-by-delphine-de-vigan-5525067.html. Accessed 12 Jan. 2018.
  • Martin, Tim. Review of No and Me, by Delphine de Vigan. The Telegraph, 12 Apr. 2010, www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/7568384/No-and-Me-by-Delphine-de-Vigan-review.html. Accessed 12 Jan. 2018.
  • Review of No and Me, by Delphine de Vigan. Kirkus Reviews, 1 July 2010, p. 620. Literary Reference Center Plus, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lkh&AN=52564973&site=lrc-plus. Accessed 12 Jan. 2018.
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