This is yet another recent book that cements my assumption that Provence is enchanting. Of course, in my fantasy, there is significantly less murder and suspicion than in this book (or Death at Chateau Bremont). Still, I too dream of a run down but livable field stone farmhouse, with an aging orchard and lavender fields, stretching out behind it. My chief responsibilities would be writing, reading, wandering and gardening. My ideas don't vary much from the main narrator. Eve escapes from a barely rewarding career to a storybook villa in the countryside of France. But a cloud shadows her sunny outlook when her boyfriend begins acting suspiciously.
|An abandoned home in Provence / http://abandonedplaces.livejournal.com/2118536.html|
The book switches between two narrators, whose stories slowly meet in the middle. Firstly, the main, modern-day narrator deals with her growing doubts about her boyfriend's honesty. Her efforts to gain any insight from him only drive them apart, so she resorts to her own research -- neighbors, newspapers, gossip -- and learns that he was married before, to a woman named Rachel. She struggles between calming her racing imagination and her fears that she might be the next woman in his life to disappear.
The second narrator, as it quickly becomes clear, is a woman who lived in the same cluster of buildings about 60 or so years previously. Her family ran the farm as best they were able, despite one daughter's blindness, a son's familial betrayal, and a father's sudden death. This narrative is rife with vivid descriptions of Provence's scents and sights -- particularly as the sisters embark on a lavender and perfume venture.
The book is certainly engaging and will make you want to keep reading. At times the switching between narratives is a bit distracting, especially when it is too frequent. While it bears certain resemblances to the great Rebecca, I do wish the author had not so blatantly referred to it within the story. She even calls herself out in the naming of Rachel - another of Du Maurier's lesser-known characters. It would have best been addressed (if at all) in an author's note, explaining her fondness for the Du Maurier's stories.
All in all, it is a solid novel and an enjoyable read. Those who enjoy a modern gothic tale will want to check this one out.
Thank you to the kind folks at HarperCollins for the review copy.
Author Deborah Lawrenson's site.
On Sale: 8/9/2011
Trimsize: 6 x 9
Pages: 400, $25.99, Ages: 18 and Up