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Our Hearts Hang from the Lemon Trees: A family divided: France, London and the Secrets in Between [Kindle Edition]

Laetitia Rutherford
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £12.99
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Book Description

“I listened to that house breathe and creak through twenty long summers, often bored, or longing to be somewhere else, always ensnared by its charm…” In this captivating memoir, Laetitia Rutherford evokes a vanished world set alight by her enigmatic grandfather and her brilliant but troubled father – two men who never speak. The youngest daughter of a prominent journalist, Laetitia is brought up in genteel poverty in London’s Notting Hill, in an eccentric family caught on the cusp between the Thatcher era and an older age of austerity. Her father, in his love of poetry and his coruscating ideas, is a constant source of inspiration but a hard man to impress. In the holidays, she and her sisters and mother leave him for her mother’s family in France, where her tempestuous grandmother dominates, and where Laetitia is often left with her beloved but increasingly frail grandfather – “the oldest and the youngest thrown together to keep an eye on each other”. Over twenty summers spent in a villa on the Riviera and a crumbling chateau in the Loire – like the house in London, stuffed with books and fragments of the past – a riveting family drama unfolds, as the secrets of why the two sides never speak and why her father seemed so bizarrely absent are gradually revealed.

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Product Description


"Evocative and bittersweet...a poignant family saga." -- The Bookseller

"A remarkable and unusual book...this is no misery memoir. Rutherford's writing reveals tenderness...and deep affection." -- The Financial Times

"This beautifully sculpted and tender memoir... is not one of those scarily abusive dark holes in which so many misery confessionals flounder. Rutherford has crafted a beautiful but thoughtful book... [and a] gem of a memoir." -- The Sunday Times

"A heady evocation of summers in a crumbling chateau." -- The Daily Telegraph

"Our Hearts Hang From The Lemon Trees is perfect. It represents a new breed of 'aristo memoirs'... A beautifully told family history." --Viv Groskop, RED Magazine

"A heady evocation of summers in a crumbling chateau on the Riviera and life in Notting Hill with her troubled father." --Stella Magazine

About the Author

Laetitia Rutherford grew up in London, apart from holidays spent with her maternal family in France. She read English at Balliol College, Oxford, then started working in publishing first at Prospect magazine and then at HarperCollins. Five years later, she gained a Masters in 20th Century Literature from Goldsmiths College, before returning to work and becoming a literary agent. In her spare time, she set up Nibfest, a new literary festival in Notting Hill its inaugural outing was in April 2013. She is married to film director James Erksine and they live in London with their son.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1477 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Short Books (1 Aug. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DY0S3Y8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #70,072 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I read this book on my summer holiday where I had the time to slow down and take in many of the profound questions it raised for me. Laetitia Rutherford's book leads us back to her childhood and slowly explores the dysfunctional dynamics that shaped the world she lived in, It is a biography that made me think about my own journey in life, and my relationship with my family. The seriousness of her writing appealed intensely, I realised it had been so long since I had read a book that took me to so many uncomfortable and poignant moments. And yet Rutherford's touch is so gentle and that I was left reflecting on the beauty contained within such melancholic revelations. I mentioned this book to a friend of mine who works with terminally ill patients and has very little time to read. He read it in one sitting and was so moved by it, he said rarely had a book accessed some of his most intimately guarded thoughts in such an effective way. I would throughly recommend this to others.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Engaging but Brief Memoir 25 Aug. 2013
Laetitia Rutherford's intriguing title for her memoir, comes from a poem by Guillaume Apollinaire, a French writer the author is utterly passionate about, and examples of the poet's work appear at intervals throughout the text of this very attractively presented book, along with an occasional sketch by Apollinaire's friend, Pablo Picasso.

This unusual and engaging memoir begins with a description of Laetitia's arrival, with her mother and two sisters, at her maternal grandparents' wonderful villa in Antibes, at the start of yet another seemingly halcyon summer holiday - days spent on glorious beaches, tea at five, followed by baths and then dressing for family dinner, which was served on a huge, marble-topped table on the terrace. The author remembers: "Often I lay awake on the bed underneath the big shutters flung open to the night, watching the rhythmic beam of the lighthouse, listening to the crickets chirrup and every hour the bong of the grandfather clock at the foot of the staircase." However, as we read on, we learn that these family gatherings were not as idyllic as they appeared, for not only was Laetitia's grandmother a difficult, snobbish and, at times, an emotionally cruel woman, but Laetitia's beloved father was excluded from these family holidays, finding it absolutely impossible to get along with his exacting mother-in-law.

Laetitia's father, Malcolm Rutherford, a journalist for the Financial Times (who during his career was Diplomatic Correspondent, Assistant Editor, Chief Political Commentator, Chief Theatre Critic and Obituaries Editor) was a widely-read and stimulating man with a powerful intellect, whose love of poetry was passed on to his daughter.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful memoir 2 Aug. 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
This is a beautifully observed memoir centred on a young girl trying to understand the complexities of her divided family and her journey in trying to make sense of them for herself. Set between the the heat and romance of southern france and and the Notting Hill of the 80's I was completely drawn into this evocative and tender story, it reads at a lovely gentle pace and is punctuated with poetry, illustrations and photographs. I read it in a day as I was captivated and would highly highly recommend it for a summer read. Brilliant!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful memoir.... 11 Jun. 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved this book. I read it in two sunny sittings, but had I not had children and animals to deal with could easily have done it in one. Moving and evocative but never overly sentimental, the story is gentle but interesting and the whole book benefits from being littered with intelligent insights and wonderful turns of phrase. I feel compelled to read it all over again straight away just so I can lock some of the ideas away. I would really, really recommend as an intelligent and unusual summer read.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Elegant memoir 14 Aug. 2013
By Nancy
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I loved this elegantly written and intelligent family memoir, not least because it brought back memories of a visit to Antibes many years ago. The slow revelation of the family secrets reminded me of Edmund de Waal's The Hare With Amber Eyes, in that the story could have been sensationalised, but is all the better for the author's restraint. Fascinating and very moving.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So Many Coincidences 27 Oct. 2013
Thank you Laetitia for succinctly putting into words, about your divided family's lives in France and England, and the pain of family separation. Your story helped me remember my early life in France in the 1960s, and to consider where my life is now. So many remarkable coincidences that mean a lot.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended 23 Sept. 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is one of the most enjoyable books I have read in years. The author provides a deeply personal insight into her childhood and early adulthood in the background of the South of France and metropolitan London, with the poems of Guillaume Apollinaire providing not only reflections on the familial developments and losses, but ultimately resolution of that loss. The descriptions of the landscape, relationships, and what is unsaid within the emotional life of families are an absolute delight to read. The experience of grief and loss is intensely personal and challenging, particularly those from highly intellectual/agnostic/atheist metropolitan backgrounds. I am sure however that this book will find a deep resonance for many, and it is not so much a book about bereavements but of the happiness and resolution that can be reached from the shadows of loss.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Our hearts hang from the lemon trees
Published 3 months ago by Carolej
5.0 out of 5 stars More please!
Beautifully written, touching memoir. Stayed with me long after reading it. Hoping to see more from this author
Published 11 months ago by Bookworm
2.0 out of 5 stars If you write a memoir, don't you need a story to tell?
The author tells of her school holidays in Antibes with her snobbish, controlling grandmother and term times in the run-down Notting Hill family home with the intermittent presence... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Sue Kichenside
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite memoir
I loved this book, an unusual and moving memoir which describes a childhood spent in London and France interwoven with reflections on art and poetry, particularly that of the... Read more
Published 23 months ago by bluestar99
1.0 out of 5 stars Why bother?
A labour of love, obviously; and perhaps a work of self-therapy. But personally I found it self-indulgent, and the family stories left me uninvolved, and wondering: how on earth... Read more
Published 23 months ago by P. Roberts
5.0 out of 5 stars Deeply moving memoir
I couldn't put this down. A must-read for the 90s generation. A picture-perfect evocation of end of the twentieth century Notting hill wonderfully juxtaposed with the stifling heat... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Nicola K
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, poignant memoir
This book has lingered in my thoughts in the weeks since I read it in France (aptly) this August. The author's tale of two generations, with particular focus on her remarkable... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Jack London
5.0 out of 5 stars Restrained yet piercing
I highly recommend this subtle and affecting memoir. Beautiful. I read it all in two afternoons!

Feels like a female "The Hare With Amber Eyes". Read more
Published 24 months ago by Zed
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