Set in a sleepy french village by the Loire. An old woman buys an abandoned farm house and opens a creperie which wins accolades for its authentic food. But her relatives want the album of recipes her mother left her and they plan a campaign, involving a burger van, to force the album from her. And in the end, they know, and she knows, that if the village discover who she is and what happened during the Second World War when the Germans occupied the village, she will be hounded from the village.
A neat little story which interleaves the old widow's present-day experiences with those of her nine-year-old self. A story of collaboration, betrayal, and innocence. A story of misplaced love. And a story of a very naughty little girl who has always been at odds with her mother.
I particularly enjoyed the food writing which often made me long to experience the glorious tastes described. This was a well-written, well-plotted story with some superb characters.
Lots of great writing. Here are my favourite moments:
- "for me, food is simply food, a pleasure for the senses, a carefully constructed piece of ephemera, like fireworks, hard work sometimes, but not to be taken seriously." (1.5)
- "A metal staple stuck out from the side of each, bleeding tears of rust into the rotten stone." (1.8)
- "My mother and I stalked each other, like cats staking out their territory. Every touch was a spark which hissed with static." (2.2)
- "To her, these petty rules mattered because those were the things she used to control our world. Take them away and she was like the rest of us, orphaned and lost." (2.2)
- "Drunkenness ... is a sin against the fruit, the tree, the wine itself. It is an outrage, an abuse, just as rape is an abuse of the act of love." (4.6)
- "Wine, distilled and nurtured from bud into fruit, and then through all the processes that make it what it is, deserves better than to be guzzled by some sot with a headful of nonsense." (4.6)
- "The music was hot and the heat burned off us like alcohol in a flambe." (4.8)
- "More people were filing out of the church ... a handful of young men fresh from confession ... ogling the girls prior to reaping a new crop of sinful thoughts. More, if they could get it; harvest was the time for it, after all." (5.11)
A great story, beautifully told. February 2010; 363 pages