The Man Without Shelter is a heart-warming story about a man of courage and integrity who has been wrongly imprisoned for a crime he has not committed. The book opens with Arnault leaving prison after a surprise release – an intriguing and suspenseful start to his story.
We follow Arnault as he re-enters a world that he has not known for many years; a Paris which has left him behind. However, certain aspects of it remain the same and this is apparent in the grimy undersurface of the city where the impoverished and exploited live, or rather, survive.
In this aspect too, Arnault is a survivor with a strong set of morals and from the outset, there is the feeling that he will come through and conquer whatever setbacks head his way. He is also assisted in this by a woman called Lucy, a Parisian lawyer who finds her career taking a different path and who, through dire circumstances of her own, becomes Arnault’s champion. An unlikely pairing but one that is made from the collision of two worlds and the goodwill of the individual characters extended to others: powerful and enduring.
This book is relatively easy to read although at times, I felt like the narrative could have been more fluid. There were events that happened in the book where I felt a little like I was filling in gaps with what I thought was happening rather than it being completely transparent to me as a reader; however, that being said, Garai is a competent writer who is able to convey his imagined world through description and his chosen phrases.
I had a clear idea of Arnault and the sort of character he is, which is what one would expect, as a reader of the main character. Lucy, who also features heavily, I was less certain of and I think could have been developed in more depth, from the start of the book where we first meet her at the law firm and through her relationship with Marc – these were merely touched upon before we have Arnault’s and Lucy’s encounter and I felt like this, along with Arnault’s relationship with Zara had more scope.
Not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination but one that with some dialogue perhaps, and more considered establishment of Lucy and Zara as characters could have been a great read.