May 2019 book reviews
Connexion journalists read the latest French releases. To be fair, each gets 20 minutes’ reading time. This month: The French girl, La Débâcle, Memories and Poems from a Sunny Clime, Same Circus Different Clowns, Zazou and Rebecca
The French Girl Lexie Elliott ***EDITOR'S CHOICE***
Corvus £7.99 ISBN: 978-1-78649-556-3
Kate is haunted by the memory of that French girl, Séverine, ‘the girl next door’ who she met on holiday with her group of friends.
This was supposed to be a dream holiday where she and her friends (Tom, Lara, Caroline, Theo and Seb) would celebrate being young graduates. However, the arrival of Séverine changed everything. She starts spending time every day at the pool with them although she does not get along with all the girls.
She then suddenly disappears when the group of friends goes back to England.
Her body is found in a well ten years later and the six friends are now all working professionals in London.
While the police re-open the case, the group has to be reunited and old forgotten memories are brought back.
A French detective comes to London to meet them individually but suspicions grow stronger as each of them discovers more about the case.
The group of friends will realise that this murder may be more related to them than they thought.
Kate is the main character and we follow her journey as she discovers more and more, about not only herself but also the true character of her friends.
Despite being a suspect herself, she starts her own investigation to understand what really happened to Séverine.
La Débâcle, Émile Zola
Oxford University Press, £11.99 ISBN: 978-0-19-880189-4
Whether you like history or not, this book – which was translated by Elinor Dorday – is a classic.
It was a bestseller at its time and we know why. It gives another fresher perspective on the Franco-Prussian war and explains why and how the Second Empire failed.
It is very rare to see this but there is a certain pity and compassion for the soldiers and for the Emperor Napoléon III, who was already ill and said to be suffering as much as the soldiers who were fighting for France at the time.
As we read, we are introduced to the fictional lives of the soldiers, as Émile Zola had imagined. This way of writing and the thought of the private lives of soldiers give more humanity to another war story.
It also allows the readers to feel what life could have been and how this military defeat was seen at the time.
The book is very detailed and has an excellent introduction as well as different documents such as maps, a chronology and a short biography of Émile Zola – all the tools are given to provide a better understanding of the story on the historical side and to understand the conditions of writing experienced by Zola, who shows that he can be a good journalist and a good novelist.
It also gives an insight of his own life as a public figure in France.
Memories and Poems from a Sunny Clime, Peter Harrison
PublishNation, £5.99 ISBN: 978-1-326-91615-2
Although it can be hard to continue after a few chapters as there is no real story to follow, this ‘my life in France’ book manages to mix important themes such as family, faith and illness in a light-hearted manner.
The author describes his own life in France since his arrival in Provence in 1980 and he recounts his memories – the good, the funny and the bad – through a series of poems.
All of his verse is very simple, modern, and easy to understand. He even explains each of them by combining poetry and storytelling.
The book is like an open diary where the writer reveals his thoughts about different experiences of his life.
Some topics raised through the poems – such as existence and relationships – can also make the reader think.
There is a common subtext about the trials of everyday existence for everyone.
Same Circus Different Clowns, Brent Tyler
£8.99 ISBN: 978-1-790-46672-6
It is not easy to move to France and immediately find a good job. Brent and his wife Debbie have experienced this.
Now, through his second book, the author shows how difficult it can be to find good employers.
As the couple has chosen to settle in the South of France, they will do everything to stay but will have to endure difficult periods.
Their first employers are a rich couple with two children who live in Hong Kong most of the time.
They have to take care of their villa and the rental guests which come during the year.
The couple is very excited by the job offer but after meeting the wife Belinda and her two girls Zoe and Caroline, Debbie is already fed up and warns her husband.
However, she knows this job opportunity can only be good for them.
To find common ground with their employers will not be easy but the couple will try as hard as they can. Otherwise, they will have to find another place to stay and work...
Zazou and Rebecca, David V. Pearson
CreateSpace Independent Publishing, £9.18 ISBN: 978-1-54-500450-0
What would you do if, after spending your whole life painting in your workshop in the South of France, you discovered you had a daughter?
This is what happens to Zazou, whose disabled daughter, Rebecca shows up unexpectedly. If she hopes to meet her father and create a good relationship with him she quickly realises that it might not be that easy.
He is in shock and unresponsive to her.
Thankfully the two muses of the artist, Clare and Aline, are delighted to meet Rebecca and will do everything to make her feel at home.
They take care of her and even work on a special room so that everything is easily accessible for her by wheelchair.
However, Rebecca does not understand what kind of relationship these two women have with her father, and what kind of relationship she could have with him, as his only obsession is painting.
She hardly speaks with him and he ignores her most of the time.
Aline and Clare are the only ones to answer her questions and she still has a lot. But Rebecca does not lose any hope and she slowly finds her way in this strange household, which she will soon call family.