Young Once – Patrick Modiano, 2014 Nobel Winner

Young Once is the first book I read by Patrick Modiano. The author won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2014 and instantly became popular. In this book, he looks into his two characters’ past, which continues living with all their normalcy. You will go to the past through two characters that you will immediately love and look at your present from a different angle.


Young Once begins with the present of Odile and Louis. These two live in a beautiful chalet with their two children. They have also finished their longtime nursery business in the chalet, and they will have the house for themselves. We have a very happy family picture. But when we look back at Louis and Odile’s lives when they were young, then things change a bit.

Young Once  - Patrick Modiano

Louis lost his family in an accident and ended his military service two years later. On the other hand, Odile lost her family as well but in a different way. And these two are united after a while in the book, not immediately. Until their past unites, their stories proceed separately. I can’t say it’s a great story, but you might like the author’s style, his unconventional way of storytelling, and the characters’ innocence. I think it might be an excellent option if you’re looking for a Nobel winner. Enjoy!

Young Once  - Patrick Modiano

Young Once

Young Once is a crucial book in the career of Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano. It was his breakthrough novel, in which he stripped away the difficulties of his earlier work and found a clear, mysteriously moving voice for his haunting stories of love, nostalgia, and grief. It has also been called “the most gripping Modiano book of all” (Der Spiegel).
Odile and Louis are leading a happy, bucolic life with their two children in the French countryside near the Swiss mountains. It is Odile’s thirty-fifth birthday, and Louis’s thirty-fifth birthday is a few weeks away. Then the story shifts back to their early years: Louis, just freed from his military service and at loose ends, taken up by a shady character who brings him to Paris to do some work for a friend who manages a garage; Odile, an aspiring singer, at the mercy of the kindness and unkindness of strangers.

They move through a Paris saturated with the crimes and secrets of the past but breathing hopes for the future; they find each other and struggle together to create what, looking back, will have been their youth. 

Patrick Modiano

Patrick Modiano was born in Boulogne-Billancourt outside Paris. His father was a businessman and his mother an actor. They met in Paris during the German occupation during World War II. After growing up with his grandparents and having received Flemish as their first language, Patrick studied at the Lycée Henri IV in Paris and took private lessons in geometry from the writer Raymond Queneau, who came to play a crucial role in the development of Patrick Modiano as a writer. He debuted as an author in 1968. Patrick Modiano is married and has two daughters.

Good stories are often characterized by their exploration of universal but difficult questions, at the same time as they are grounded in everyday settings and historical events. Patrick Modiano’s works center around subjects like memory, oblivion, identity, and guilt. The city of Paris plays a central role in his writing, and his stories are often based on events that occurred during the German occupation of France during World War II. At times, Patrick Modiano’s stories are based on his own experience or on interviews, newspaper articles, or his own notes.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

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