Friday, 28 July 2017

France... again!

More French books. Quelle surprise! Not. Anyway, three very different books.

First, The Critic by Peter May - my book 3 for Peggy's Read Scotland 2017 challenge.

American wine critic, Gil Petty, has been murdered, his body pickled in wine, dressed in ceremonial robes, and strung up scarecrow-wise in a vineyard in the Gaillac region of the south of France. This happened several years ago and it's yet another unsolved case for Scot, Enzo McCleod, who is trying to solve seven unsolved murders from a book by an acquaintance. As a critic, Petty had a lot of influence over what sold throughout the world in the way of wine. He was also not the pleasantist of people and Enzo suspects he had more than a few enemies. But then another body, similarly pickled and strung up, is discovered and there appears to be no connection between the two men. A code needs to be broken before this distressing case can be solved but are Enzo and his team of Nicole, Sophie and Bertrand, and Charlotte up to the task?

Another enjoyable foray into the world of Enzo McCleod in the south of France. In this one wine-making plays a huge part. I would almost say if you fancy going to France to take it up, read this book! To be honest there's a little too much detail but it did make me consider the power these critics have over people's lives, be it wine, food, hotels or whatever. You can understand the resentment hard working people must feel towards them. I like the team Enzo has around him, particularly Nicole the clever student from a very poor farming background. Her problems feel very real. Not so sure about the on/off girlfriend, Charlotte. And here's yet another male author writing a middle-aged main character who's apparently completely irrestible to much younger women... Anyway despite this I do like this series... it's well written, the murders are always complicated and thus hard to solve, and Peter May really does do 'France' very well indeed. I shall read more.

Next, Words in a French Life by Kristen Espinasse:

Kristin Espinasse is an American woman from Arizona who married a Frenchman and moved to the South of France. She thought she could speak reasonable French having always had an intense love of the country and studied the language extensively. But real French, spoken by real people, is quite a different animal to that which we're all taught in the classroom and Kristen found her language skills somewhat wanting. She started a blog, French Word a Day, in which she introduces her readers to new words and illustrates them with daily happenings in her own life with her family in Provence. I found this utterly charming. All the vagaries of French life are here, I wondered at how similar we all are with our worries and concerns for our families but also... how different with our little idiosyncrasies, our taboos, and so on. I loved hearing about her husband and children... who helped her a lot with her French as they grew... her friends and most of all the area in which she lived, which sounds rather idyllic. The book, I should add, also informs and I felt I learnt quite a lot, but in a gentle way... the best way in my opinion.

Lastly, The Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard:

Emmy and her boyfriend, Nathan, are on holiday in the Loire Valley, staying at a guesthouse, La Cour des Roses, owned by British ex-pats, Rupert and Gloria. Rupert has a sudden seizure in the kitchen one night and Emmy rushes off to find Gloria, his wife, and finds her and Nathan in a compromising position. Next day Nathan leaves with Gloria leaving Emmy to look after Rupert, just out of hospital. She stays to help him run the guesthouse and very quickly grows to love everything about the place and loves the new friends she meets. But she has a good job back in England, friends, family... she can't possibly stay... can she?

I don't read heaps of these romantic comedy type books but I do enjoy the occasional one, especially if it happens to be set in France as this one is. And here the setting is particulary well depicted. La Cour des Roses sounds absolutely idyllic, as does the village and surrounding Loire countryside. Well drawn characters add to the enjoyment, I liked Rupert, Alain and Sophie, but particularly loved the French woman who came to clean whose name eludes me - possibly 'Madame Dupont'. I will admit to a few moments when I felt like shaking Emmy, and as to her ex-boyfriend, well... Anyway, thoroughly enjoyable and there are two more books which I'll search out in due course.

So, here we are almost at the end of yet another month. Scary. It's already feeling autumnal, a fact which I don't mind in the slightest as autumn's my favourite time of year. Happy reading!



DesLily said...

good gracious lady you are a reading machine this year!!!! So odd for me to read books in countries that don't entice me, like France or Italy. I'm weird , I know.. but you can't pick your sisters!! lol

Peggy Ann said...

France is not a setting I ever pick out but you've made these sound very enticing, Cath!

Cath said...

Pat: It's weird because I don't feel like I've read a lot this year at all. LOL! I suppose I must've. Not odd at all, I don't pick up books set in places that don't interest me either. I love the USA, France, the UK and more but I would not rush to pick up books set in the Far East for instance. One day that may change... I'm really fickle. LOL!

Peggy: Here's an odd thing. All three books are about France but not really about French people, although the French are there in the background. That first is about a Scot in France, the second about an American woman in France and the third book's about a bunch of British ex-pats.

TracyK said...

I am so glad you are enjoying the Enzo books, Cath. I have wanted to read those for years and finally got a copy of the first one recently. I am looking forward to reading it... hopefully this year.

Cath said...

Tracy: To be honest, I didn't really expect to enjoy this series. I don't know why... but I'm pleased I did try it because it's very readable indeed.

Val said...

You keep finding some enjoyable reads for me to add to my list! Thank you
(It should be darn it because of the length of the list haha)

Cath said...

Val: I think the 'problem' is that we have quite similar reading tastes. Pity we're not neighbours. Actually, Alaska rather appeals... LOL!