Author: Dominique Marny
Publisher: Publisher's Square
Type of book: France, Post-WWI, 1919-1922? romance, relationships, love, ambition, determination, countryside, Provence, travel, business, strong women, class differences
Year it was published: 1997
In the aftermath of World War I, a family estate hangs in the balance
For generations, the Barthélemy family tended to the olive trees of Restanques, a sprawling property in Cotignac whose olive oil and almonds were as incredible as the countryside that produced them. But all that changed when war came to France. Robert Barthélemy never returned from the trenches, and without him, the farm is beginning to die. His widow has lost the will to live, and only the fierce efforts of their daughter, Jeanne, have kept the creditors at bay.
Jeanne is spending an afternoon at home with the family’s grim financial statements when a handsome stranger appears on the front steps. His name is Jérôme Guillaumin and he is a brilliant botanist about to embark on a journey around the globe. From the moment they meet, Jeanne is struck by feelings she never thought possible: feelings that could save her life or destroy everything she has ever known.
The main characters are Jeanne, a young woman who promises Laurent that she will look after the land while he will be gone with Jerome to learn about botany and so forth. She is strong, resourceful and very capable. Laurent is Jeanne's younger brother if I'm not mistaken who is interested in botany and other projects and who wants to expand his mind, thus the reason he goes away with Jerome to travel the world. He is best described as curious, happy-go-lucky and a bit selfish when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Jerome is an ambitious young man who is determined to pursue his interests and hobbies and who also desires to experience the world. He is loyal to those he cares about. Rosalie is a young woman who at first fell in love with Laurent and had an affair with him and remained loyal while he is gone to Asia. She also is more attracted to fool's gold rather than real gold and is vengeful. Other characters include Marthe, Jeanne's mother who is fickle and cares more for appearances and spending money than anything else. She doesn't have a good relationship with either of her children. Then Rene who marries Marthe but also has hidden schemes against Jeanne and Laurent. There are other characters as well, but it will take too long to list them.
Love and needs never stay the same but change through time
The story is in third person narrative from what seems to be everyone's point of view. The scenes and the imagery feels very vivid to me, and I really admired Jeanne and the hard work she puts into trying to keep the estate afloat by creating a business venture, and trying to give her brother freedom that he feels he needs. I also enjoyed the relationships that characters had and how they seemed to represent motivations as well as the different people everyone dates in their lives. At the same time, I was confused by some of the characters' decisions in the relationships they ultimately ended up in, and why they ended up with these particular people.
(From France Book Tours)
Strangely enough, it seems appropriate that I should read this book at the time that autumn makes an appearance where I live. (Unfortunately its not a four seasons autumn...) but reading the story and experiencing the weather is complimentary in the best of ways. I did enjoy a lot of things about the book such as the way the scenes are built, and the way the characters are experiencing uncertainty when it comes to romance or whom they should be with, and the language or the way the book is translated has a strange beauty that pulls one in and doesn't really let them go. There are some issues that I had while reading the book, namely that the characters' points of view switch without a warning; (one could be reading from Jeanne's point of view, then the switch goes on to her brother Laurent and so forth) as if the author couldn't separate the points of views. Another issue that I had with the book is that the characters felt more like butterflies or fireflies flitting in and out of pages rather than being actual people, and I couldn't grasp a lot about their motivations and personalities.
This is for France Book Tours
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)