France

‘Mediterranean Summer’ by Jane MacKenzie #RBRT #FridayReads #BookReview

#RBRT Review Team

I read ‘Mediterranean Summer’ for Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.

Mediterranean-Summer-cover

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

‘Beautiful artist, beautiful woman, and beautiful lover.’ 
May 1968 and Paris is hot with rebellion, passion and hope, as protestors clash with the riot police. Brilliant art student Laure stands boldly on the barricades, heady with her new-found defiance, and is swept into romance with Lolo, the fascinating student leader. But youthful rebellion comes at a cost.
Two months later, the excitement is over. Laure heads home for the summer to Vermeilla, her picturesque Mediterranean village. She looks forward to the simplicity of village life, and to a summer in the sun with family and friends, but is aware that the new Laure may shock her little Catalan community.
But even Vermeilla isn’t protected from the forces of change. Shadows hang over both Laure and her village haven. Can she battle the menace that has followed her from Paris? And can she trust Robert, the aloof lawyer who may be the only one who can keep her safe? 

I’m a bit of a Francophile. France is definitely my favourite place to visit and I plan to move there permanently one day – Brexit permitting. So I love reading anything set in France and this novel, set just after the civil unrest of Paris in 1968, sounded intriguing.

Art student Laure is returning home to her quiet village after her involvement in the Paris demonstrations. She needs to rest and recover, and she also needs to find a way to resolve the problem hanging over her – a problem that could mean the end of her studies.

At first the peace and solitude are soothing, and Laure enjoys reconnecting with her family and her childhood friends. But her brother-in-law Daniel has a new job at the Nobel factory in Paulilles, and trainee doctor Martin, his brother and Laure’s best friend, is worried about the risks the workers there face from exposure to nitro-glycerine.

The gorgeous summer is clouded by these issues and with Laure’s worries over what has happened in Paris. Then Martin’s cousin Robert, a lawyer from Paris, offers to help. The novel focuses on these relationships – between Laure and Robert, Laure and her family, and Laure and Martin’s family.

There is romance here, and conflict, and at the heart is a girl trying to find her place in a changing world. Laure is a lovely main character, and the interactions between the characters are well-written. There are some beautiful descriptions, of the little towns, the gorgeous countryside, and, of course, the wonderful food, and this part of France is really brought to life through the writing.

It’s a gently-paced read, which works well with the setting. However, it was too slow at times, and, while the descriptions were beautifully done, there were places where they went on for too long, and I did find myself skipping ahead. I do feel that this novel could be quite a bit shorter.

It was also a little difficult to keep track of the many characters and their complicated relationships – though it was worth persevering. The writing was a little too formal at times as well, and came across as a little forced and unnatural. However, on the whole this is a lovely novel, just right for a summer read.

4 stars

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‘Liberty Leading the People’

Anyone who reads my blog or who knows me at all will know how much I love France. I’ve spent many, many happy holidays there and plan to move there permanently. I don’t want to sound overly emotional but I am being completely genuine when I say that the French people I have met have been, without exception, welcoming, friendly and warm. They really do have a fabulous attitude to life and to living that I haven’t experienced anywhere else.

My WIP is partially based in Paris and the great French artist Eugene Delacroix features. I have spent a great deal of time researching Paris, reading about its history, its culture, its people. And I have been planning a trip – it is a city I have always wanted to visit, but have only passed through (usually accidently when the satnav goes wonky).

Delacroix painted ‘Liberty Leading the People’ in 1830. It has often been seen as a painting commemorating the French Revolution of the late eighteenth century. However, the scene he painted actually relates to what took place on July 28th, 1830.

the-liberty-leading-the-people-1830

After the revolution and the subsequent rise of Napoleon and the Napoleonic wars, the Bourbons were restored to the throne,with the brother of the executed King Louis XVI becoming king. Charles X became king in 1824 and he immediately set about undoing the work of the revolution. In July 1830, among other measures, he abolished freedom of the press. This lead to a virtually bloodless revolution; resistance to the king spread quickly and civil war broke out, people refused to work, and crowds gathered shouting ‘Down with the king’. The king tried to solve things by abdicating and making his grandson king. The Chamber of Deputies refused to accept this and the king went into exile.

Delacroix’s painting symbolises this moment – when anything seemed possible.

It has been used as an image for that first revolution – but that, to me, doesn’t matter. What matters to me is the values it represents. The will of the people.  Liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity). Liberty, of course, is the symbol of the French Republic, also known as Marianne.

I don’t feel qualified to comment on the events of last Friday, nor do I feel it is my place to do so. But this painting by Mathilde Adorno, using Delacroix’s famous image, says it all for me. Marianne is as apt a symbol today as she was when Delacroix painted her in 1830.

paris

#BookReview: À la Mod: My So-Called Tranquil Family Life in Rural France by Ian Moore

a la mod

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

I bought this book after seeing it included in a post as part of Rosie Amber’s Friday Five Challenge. As I’ve mentioned before, several times, I love France and, as we are planning to move over there in a few years’ time, this story of a family who have done just that really appealed.

There have been lots and lots of books written about the British relocating to France but this book is different. Ian Moore is a comedian, and a mod. And a mod who is determined not to let the fact that he is living in rural France get in the way of his sense of style. He refuses to wear wellington boots, for example, even when the land is knee deep in mud.

His reasons for moving are ones I can really identify with. Why, in Britain, do we pay huge amounts of money for tiny houses and a square of back garden? Why do we accept that that’s how it must be? Bravely, or stupidly, Ian and his wife buy a house in the Loire on impulse, attracted by the space it will give to their growing family.

But it’s not all idyllic. Moore has to travel back and forth to the UK to work, leaving his wife Natalie alone with their children. Often exhausted when he returns home, he also makes the return journey full of trepidation as to how many new animals his wife and boys will have acquired while he’s been away. These animals, including a horse with an intense dislike of Moore, a dog that continuously makes amorous advances to anything that stays still and a band of feral cats that accept no rules, become the bane of Moore’s life. But his wife continues to add to the collection, even trying to save the mice left half dead by the cats. I have an uneasy feeling that this is how it will be for us, and I will spend my life picking up the endless piles of various animals’ poo which is how Natalie seems to spend most of her days.

Funny, very readable and honest too, this book doesn’t give a glamorous, how wonderful it is, fake picture of life in France. It isn’t all drinking wine in the sunshine. There are relentless winters, gales that blow trampolines through the garden, struggles and misunderstandings due to Moore’s inability to pick up the language, and times when it all seems too much. Yes, it’s light-hearted and fun, but it’s also realistic. Does it put me off going to France?  No. Will I be reading the next book – C’est Modnifique? Definitely.

4.5 out of 5

#FridayFiveChallenge ‘Isabella: Braveheart of France’ by Colin Falconer @rosieamber1

biscuits

Welcome to the Friday Five Challenge

Rosie Amber’s Friday Five challenge only takes five minutes, so grab a cuppa and join in!

In today’s online shopping age, readers often base their buying decisions on small postage stamp size book covers (Thumb-nails), a quick glance at the book description and the review. How much time do they really spend making that buying decision?

AUTHORS – You often only have seconds to get a reader to buy your book, is your book cover and book bio up to it?

The Friday Five Challenge is this….. IN ONLY FIVE MINUTES….

1) Go to any online book supplier,

2) Randomly choose a category,

3) Speed through the book covers, choose one which has instantly appealed to your eye,

4) Read the book Bio/ Description for this book,

5) If there are reviews, check out a couple,

6) Make an instant decision, would you BUY or PASS?

This week it’s all things French. The weather has been miserable but I’m keeping my spirits up because I’m off to France in eight days (can you tell I’m counting the days off!). And I’ve just finished reading a book set in France (the wonderful ‘The Undertaker’s Son’ by Bev Spicer), have started reading another book set in France (‘a La Mod’, that I bought as a result of reading a Friday Five Challenge post) and I’ve been watching the last week of ‘My Kitchen Rules’ with bated breath (though not at the excitement of the final cook off, but just at the sight of wonderful French chef Manu Feildel). So, my Friday Five Challenge search naturally led to France.

There were lots of books about living in France, but as I’m reading one at the moment, I don’t really need another one. I scrolled and scrolled for ages; some of the books that came up seemed to have very little to do with France but this one looked just my kind of thing.

isabella

Amazon.co.uk  Amazon.com

Price: £3.49 (Kindle) and £8.99 (paperback) in the UK and $5.43 (Kindle) and $9.89 (paperback) in the US. Maybe a little pricey for a kindle book, but it is 299 pages long.

Book description:

She was taught to obey. Now she has learned to rebel.

When Princess Isabella is offered as bride to King Edward of England, for her it’s love at first sight. But her dashing husband has a secret, one that threatens to tear their marriage—and England—apart. As Isabella navigates the deadly maelstrom of Edward’s court, her cleverness and grace allow her to subvert Edward’s ill-advised plans and gain influence. But soon the young queen is faced with an impossible choice, taking a breathtaking gamble that will forever change the course of history.

In the tradition of Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Chadwick, Isabella is the story of a queen who took control of her destiny—and the throne.

Reviews

Nineteen in the UK, mostly four star, but one 1 star. The one star review says that the reviewer liked the book, but that there were duplicate pages in their copy. Hardly the author’s fault and rather unfair. The other reviews are solid – the writer appears to have done his research. There are 336 reviews on Amazon.com, most four and five star. The lower starred reviews do cite typos and sloppy formatting, but the book description states that the current version has been changed.

Would I buy or pass? BUY

Analysis

I love historical fiction that’s a bit more history than fiction, and I’m a sucker for stories about strong historical women, so this is right up my street. I’ll be taking it to France – and hopefully the sun will be shining. Meanwhile – I’ve got the lovely Manu to keep me going!

manu

If you want to join in the Friday Five Challenge pop over to Rosie’s blog to find out more. See what Rosie choose when she searched for Nightdress!

And have a look at some more Friday Five picks:

Barb’s enjoying the sunshine in Spain and reading about dogs!

Cathy’s already thinking about Christmas.

Liz has chosen a mystery set in the Algarve:

Shelley is looking back on previous Friday Five books from the comfort of a deck chair in Italy (I’m not jealous at all!).

Terry’s looking at beauty tips for those of a certain age.