A charming tale crossing the English Channel, spanning a multitude of subjects; family, love, bereavement, selflessness and giving; about being given the chance to let go, about family feuds and about forgiveness.
Above all this book is about new beginnings; forging new and improved relationships with friends and relatives, old and new; neither forgetting about the past, nor dwelling on it.
This tome appealed to me with its sense of mystery – who was Pascal and why is the mention of his name met with an awkward silence? Why is Henri the way he is? What other secrets are the French contingent of the family hiding? Has Henri been totally honest about why he has brought Nicola and Oliver to France? Why on earth do the gendarmes in Paris want to talk to Oliver’s Tante Josephine? A dinner party to celebrate the late Marc’s birthday seems to open up old wounds, but leaves Nicola in the dark as to why. As if to compensate, a romantic interest, of which I had great hopes, was provided in the form of the gorgeous Gilles, and if that didn’t work out, there was always Raoul, Marc’s childhood friend.
I did feel for Nicola. Not only had she lost Marc, the man she had loved (despite their divorce), but she started to struggle with her relationship with Marc’s friend Andrew. He just didn’t seem to want to understand that his and Nicola’s relationship would only ever be platonic. Surely Nicola shouldn’t need to explain that more than once! Being such a gentle soul, she was however conscious of not wanting to hurt Andrew’s feelings. This relationship was notated in such a beautifully empathetic, emotive manner, that one could not help but feel affected by the situation.
I loved the descriptive language in this book, from the scenes of the wild boar invasion, to the flora and fauna on the farm and in the environs, and even the descriptions of the food and wine. What kind of person literally starts to drool, at the marvellous description of a dacquoise desert! Combined, I almost felt that I was living in rural France at times, such was the manner in which this novel drew me in, bewitched by both the scenery and the smells of both the countryside and the local degustation on offer.
I found myself beguiled by Josephine’s colourful past – a torrid 30 year old story of abuse and unrequited love that was just not allowed to be at that time. Frankly it was barbaric. I was devastated that the couple had not been able to be together at that time, yet lifted by the hope that in the present day, their coupling might be deemed acceptable.
My mind went through various different emotions with this book. happiness for Josephine, and her happy ending, yet not so happy for Andrew. Nicola seemed to have made a good move though, in uprooting her life and coming to live near her French family. I felt that Nicola did an amazing job, dealing with Olivier’s moments of teenage angst; she proved what an amazing Mother she was, and quelled his worries about things proverbially coming in threes.
In all, this was a superb novel, full of Gallic charm. The things that stood out to me most of all, were the sense of family throughout the book. The way that those who might be considered set in their ways, made adjustments for the sake of that family bond. Unequivocal proof that you’re never to old to change; and love – evidence that that you’re never too old for love.
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