Most helpful positive review
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
"..We were told the house could make love manifest. It was capable of performing miracles."
on 17 July 2011
I have to say first of all that even though this book was well written it was actually even more depressing initially than I expected from the title! I wasn't expecting a wholly happy story, obviously- but this book was a bit of a slog to get through from the go and I did wonder if I should continue to persevere with it. I was having a fairly happy Friday- until I opened this!
Joking aside, it does get off to a bit of a slow start and for me doesn't get going until about a quarter of the way through- so be prepared for that. The book centres on Heidi, a pastry chef who is still struggling with her grief two years after the death of her husband, Henry. Bringing up their young son on her own, she still seems to be in a fog, and its her well-meaning (interfering) sister and mother who suggest that she take some time out at the long-abandoned family home in Provence for a `lost summer' and a way of getting back a bit of herself. Heidi heads to France with her son and her niece and whilst there learns about love, loss and most importantly- healing.
Though I've probably made that sound a bit like this is a self-help book, it was inferred to be more of a foodie-type romance which is why I bought it. I have to agree with the other reviewer that the romance is a bit lacking though and seems a bit rushed- although the descriptions of Provence itself are beautiful and you can imagine yourself being there. I think though for me, I was never fully engaged with this book the way I'd hoped to be as I couldn't really get into Heidi's head. I think that's because the start of the book was so angst-ridden and emotional that it was a bit bogged down in detail and you learned more about Henry than about her and she retains a real sense of distance from the reader (perhaps she was intentionally written this way?). Situations were depicted very well but perhaps in an overly wordy, sentimental manner and she always seemed to be reflecting on encounters with Henry through flashbacks. I feel that the author `tells' you rather than `shows' you certain things which doesn't always work for me.
Nevertheless, Heidi's determination to keep Henry's memory alive for her son is admirable and lies at the heart of this novel. Poor little Abbot has been deeply affected by his father's death and along with a fear of people leaving him and him constantly worrying, he also has OCD. Abbot is depicted very well. The strongest character of all though is probably teenage niece Charlotte who is again angst ridden but at least knows her own mind. I didn't like Heidi's bossy, interfering sister particularly and her brother-in-law didn't make much of an impression on me either.
The underlying premise of this novel is that It teaches you not to take things for granted and embrace life a bit more- you never really know what you have until it's gone. It's a story of a lost summer, family secrets and of people learning to heal after a loss. It's not the happiest novel in the world admittedly, but I actually enjoyed it though I did feel a bit sad by some of the content towards the beginning-- but I'm still glad I persevered.
Recommended if you enjoy women's contemporary fiction- as I type this it's a bargain price on Kindle so would make a good holiday read! If you enjoy this then I can also highly recommend: "Sophie's Bakery for the Broken-hearted" which has a very similar premise- though much more descriptions of food in it.