The Incorrigible Optimists Club

the incorrigible optimists club

A Book Review

I had never heard of The Incorrigible Optimists Club or the Algerian-born writer Jean-Michel Guenassia. I came across it in the library when I was selecting books for my Christmas holiday reading. The original is written in French and I read the English translation by Euan Cameron.

It is quite untrue that covers don’t sell books. I was drawn to the cover and then I was hooked after reading the blurb and the first page. (It wasn’t until later that I noticed the border design of the book bizarrely matched that of my laptop case.)

I love long works of quality fiction, especially for Christmas holiday reading, and at 624 pages, this one fulfilled my craving.

A Highly Recommended Read!

The Incorrigible Optimists Club is one of those special books that’s hard to set aside when you have to do necessary things, like cook meals, or sleep.

It’s hard to believe that The Incorrigible Optimists Club is this author’s debut novel. Written against the backdrop of the Algerian War (the war for independence between France and the Algerian National Liberation Front 1954—1962), and the era of the Iron Curtain, the book offers no facile solutions to the issues raised. Neither does it excuse the terrible tragedies caused by politics and war. What’s more, the author manages to maintain an optimistic tone, and insert humour, despite the seriousness of some of the issues.

Paris 1959

The year is 1959, the place Paris. The story follows Michel Marin, a twelve-year-old compulsive reader and amateur photographer who’s a champion table football player at the local neighbourhood bistro.

But for his age, Michel has an extraordinary interest in the wider affairs of the world and a special empathy. He is drawn to a curtained-off area at the back of the bistro where a group of exiled Eastern European men gather to chat, play chess and smoke: the Incorrigible Optimists Club. As he is gradually accepted into their circle, he listens to their stories about their homelands before they fled to France, and becomes involved in their lives.

He forms a friendship with a Russian former doctor and expert chess player, Igor, who teaches Michel to play chess. He also becomes friends with another exile, Sacha, who is rigorously and aggressively denied access to the club, especially by Igor and another Russian, Leonid, whenever he dares show up. We do not learn until the end of the book why these two men hate him so much.

Michel becomes an important connection to the outside world for Sacha. In his turn, Sacha becomes a trusted sounding board for Michel’s teen angst in the absence of his father who has moved away from Paris when he and Michel’s mother, an aloof figure in Michel’s life, separate.

The club is also the occasional haunt of Jean Paul Sartre, French philosopher, writer and political activist, and Joseph Kessel, Argentinian-born French journalist and novelist. Many of the men in the club survive thanks to the generosity of Sartre and Kessel. The author drops these famous characters into his book as if he were telling the time of day, although the characters treat them with due reverence: “We gazed at him [Sartre] from a distance, slightly intimidated, feeling we were privileged witnesses of creativity in action, and even those who disliked him watched in silence…”

In the tense resolution of the story, Sacha’s strange rituals and the mysteries surrounding him are finally revealed in a way Michel could never have foreseen.

Jean-Michel Guenassia, The Incorrigible Optimists Club, 2014, Atlantic Books Ltd, London. Available through the Book Depository with free shipping.

Gail Tagarro, Editor (AE)

Contact me to have a chat about your manuscript. You may be ready for an edit, or you may like a manuscript appraisal, or to ask about writer coaching. Asking is free and I’m very approachable! Check out my testimonials while you’re on my website. Read some of the other informative blogs!

TESTIMONIAL “Her exceptional skills have been honed over a long career devoted to the written word”

I have recently completed my first fiction novel, The Empyrean Quest, and after much research, I chose Gail Tagarro to do the editing. Following a very helpful and focused first contact over the phone, I knew Gail was the right person to guide me as a first-time author.

My expectations were far exceeded over the following months as my rough manuscript evolved into a polished book ready for publishing. Her exceptional skills have been honed over a long career devoted to the written word. I found her respectful of my storyline, providing honest, professional advice. Her nurturing style helped me to learn a great deal about the writing process as we, together, created the book I had always envisaged. I am forever grateful for her guidance and look forward to working with her again in the future—Don Horsfall, The Empyrean Quest, to be published soon (Oct. 2018).

Reader Reviews

Greg Kater’s Warramunga Trilogy

The Warramunga’s WarThe Warramunga’s Aftermath of WarSkills of the Warramunga

Congratulations to my client, Australian author Greg Kater, whose historical fiction books are attracting excellent reader reviews. The Warramunga trilogy is set in and after World War II. Greg Kater writes the books from a uniquely Australian perspective.

The Warramunga’s War. Reviewer Darryl Greer on Goodreads says this. “The scenes and dialogue ring true, no doubt partly because the author, Greg Kater, has drawn on his own father’s experiences. But in addition to that, it is clear that he has put meticulous research into the story’s background. The characters are three-dimensional, the scenes come alive — you feel you are there, watching the action as it happens.”

Book cover

Excellent book review of my client Greg Kater’s book (first book in his WWII trilogy)

In addition, on Readers’ Favorite (Book Reviews and Award Contest), Greer gives The Warramunga’s War 5 out of 5 in each of the five categories assessed: Appearance, Plot, Development, Formatting, Marketability, and Overall Opinion.

Greer says this about the editing. “It is clear this book has been professionally edited — alas not something you can take for granted these days — as I didn’t spot one error.”

Yay for both Greg and me! You can read Greer’s full reader review by clicking the link here.

You can buy Greg’s books through his publisher, Zeus Publications (The Warramunga’s War; The Warramunga’s Aftermath of War; Skills of the Warramunga).

Testimonials: 2017 Best Book Award Winner–Fiction African American

Her encouragement, industry knowledge, inspiring emails, and hilarious comments kept me going

I found editors4you in 2013 during an Instagram search for editors. I was an eager debut author with a completed first draft that, I soon found out, was in shambles. Gail, the sweetest person you would ever meet, told me in the kindest, yet brutally honest way, that we had a lot of work to do! Referring to Gail as just my editor doesn’t do her justice. She is my editor, my mentor, and writing coach. And while we dissected an 80,000-word rough draft, we developed a bond that only she could make me focus and ‘do the work’ to put it back together again. It was hard and extremely challenging, but her encouragement, industry knowledge, inspiring emails, and hilarious comments kept me going. Gail is no longer just my editor; she is a true friend (who I still contract with to edit my work). We’ve got one book under our belt and many more to come—Bianca Williams,  Sidelined: The Draft. 2017 Best Book Award Winner–Fiction: African American.

2017 Silver Medal Winner Readers’ Favorite Book Awards

Adalina Mae, Nothing is Predictable (non-fiction—autobiography)

2017 Silver Medal Winner Readers’ Favorite Book Awards

2017 Silver Medal Winner Readers’ Favorite Book Awards

Adalina Mae, Nothing is Predictable

“Gail’s dedication to my project was phenomenal. She was always on time with deadlines. Her editing technique kept the essence of my style and made my story flow beautifully. The attention to detail was amazing. Her suggestions in some areas, particularly with show don’t tell, helped me improve my style of writing. I will definitely be working with her on my next project. Love your work, Gail!”

You can find Adalina’s book at:

News flash:

2017 Silver Medal Winner Readers’ Favorite Book Awards

Silver Medal Success

Congratulations to my self-published author and friend, Adalina Mae, on her phenomenal success with Nothing is Predictable. She has won the 2017 Silver Medal in the non-fiction autobiography category of the prestigious ‘Readers’ Favorite Book Awards’. Well done, Adalina, you have worked so hard on promoting your book and you richly deserve this success.

Adalina’s success reflects the ongoing efforts she puts into promoting her book.


Testimonials “Gail was welcoming and open to my book idea. She was very helpful throughout the process”

When I was looking for an editor, I wasn’t sure whom to use. I spoke to a couple of other editors first, but when I spoke to Gail, she felt more welcoming and open to my book idea. Other editors turned ‘cold’ once I told them the subject. Gail was very helpful throughout the process. If I had a question about anything, she happily answered and provided me with additional information that I needed to learn and understand as it was my first self-published eBook.

I will definitely use her services again in future—John Nguyen, How to Overcome Heroin Addiction in 4 Days…Painlessly (Sept 2017).

Testimonials “I am very grateful for your wise and insightful suggestions and recommendations”

Many thanks for your manuscript appraisal. I am very grateful for your wise and insightful suggestions and recommendations. I can’t tell you how valuable this exercise has been and I look forward to working with you further in the future. I have a sense of real excitement as I prepare to go through the manuscript and your suggestions in great detail—Russ Morgan, The Girl in the Window (draft fiction novella).

Testimonials “Her direct and honest approach helped me improve my writing skills”

I recommend Gail Tagarro of She is a highly qualified professional editor and a pleasure to work with. Her direct and honest approach helped me improve my writing skills in the process. Worth every penny! – Patricia Wilson, The Barrel to Crazyland (YA fiction).

Testimonials “Her comments were educational, humorous and always honest”

I found Gail’s contact details halfway through writing my manuscript. I called her and told her about the sensitive nature of my writing and challenged her to not only accept the topic but to take my muddled 60,000 words and make something of it. I knew I had a story to tell but I was acutely aware I would need the best professional help to make it coherent. From our phone call I knew she was the person I could trust. She asked for 2000 words to sample edit. When I read my edited sample back I was thrilled. She had turned my mass of words into something engaging – something I wanted to do but just couldn’t achieve in my writing. Her subtle edits preserved my meaning and style but turned each sentence into a sublime meander of storytelling – except that Going the Distance is a true story. I called her 6 months later to do the first edit. She managed my edit wonderfully and not only was her editing beyond my wildest expectations, her comments were educational, humorous and always honest. I became a better writer thanks to her guidance. We ended up doing 2 more full edits and she even reviewed my marketing copy supplied by Amazon. Having her check this reassured me and made me feel confident that I had done all I could to produce the best product possible for my target audience. I would recommend Gail at to anyone wishing to produce writing/copy that will be a pleasure to read now and in the future. Her editing will stand the test of time and is well worth the small investment – Guy Fitter, Going the Distance (non-fiction, self-help)

Testimonials “Gail’s attention to detail is just what you need in an editor”

Gail was friendly and approachable as well as professional. I asked her to do a sample edit on my first chapter and although I had edited that chapter so many times, she still found things I’d missed. I liked that I got a document with tracked changes so I could choose to reject or accept changes. She also provided comments about things that were confusing or unclear. I was much more confident about sending my manuscript to publishers and competitions knowing it was improved. Gail’s attention to detail is just what you need in an editor. My manuscript will be published in 2017 and Gail’s edit helped me to get over the line – Kathryn Gossow, Cassandra (fiction). You will find Kathryn’s book on Odyssey Books.