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3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 4 September 2016
This is a romantic story, which set against the momentum events in France leading up to the second world war, shows that everyone's life has its own dramas - its own hopes, regrets and disappointments. The plot is a simple one - a love affair between a married older man, and a young servant girl with a troubled past, but it is the characterisation and the strange feel of impermanence and impending disaster which makes the book so powerful.

Whilst not one of Faulk's very best books still well worth reading
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on 22 March 2016
I was hoping for more. I have read other Faulks books that I have enjoyed more. I think it has something to do with the era presented in the book. It was a bit too static for me, and when I finished it I thought it could have done with some more action, more fireworks, more emotions, more something!
I know a lot of people rave about it, but it is just not my kind of book. It won't stop me reading other Faulk books though.
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on 20 August 2017
As usual Sebastian Faulks keep the reader glued to his pages, wonderful story, entertaining, funny, sad, very good
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on 7 May 2017
Love love love this book. Such a lovely written love story. Highly recommend reading this book, Ive read it 3 times
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on 14 November 2012
I have not enjoyed this book at all. The writing is beautiful but the plot is so slow and so predictable.
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on 25 June 2013
Enjoyed but a very simple story with a bland ending, faults has written far better, but still worth a read
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on 9 March 2016
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on 29 April 2017
Though the characters aren't always sympathetic, they come across as real - and flawed. That's this novel's first strength. The second is the powerful sense of place and its atmosphere. By the latter I mean not just the physical atmosphere of 1930s France but the feeling of transience that hangs over the story. Nothing is fixed, nothing is immutable; just like the renovation work being carried out on Hartmann's home, anything may change at any moment and without warning. And like Hartmann's renovations, it may change for the worse. This sense informs the relationships between the characters, particularly that between Anne and Hartmann. My disappointment is Anne, because of the choices she makes; and at the end of the book she seems to have learnt little and is just as rootless as she was at the beginning - someone who will drift with an "expression of guarded hope in her eyes" into and out of another temporary job and as like as not another temporary relationship. The Lion d'Or is a place where people come and go, and that's as good a metaphor as any for Anne's soul. Monsieur le Patron (of the Lion d'Or) is as pessimistic and puzzled as the version of France presented in the book's prologue - a device that leaves it ambiguous as to whether our Anne is the young woman discovered in the prime minister's garden. An ambiguous prologue for an ambiguous story.
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on 2 May 2017
Newsflash: Sebastian Faulks is not that good a writer. And that despite writing one of the best novels of modern times and the most harrowing descriptions of war ever committed to fiction in Birdsong.

With this one, as in the equally mediocre Charlotte Gray, Faulks sticks to his knitting and sets the story in France, between the wars, when life was pretty much defined by the experience of the Great War. Anne, a young woman of mysterious background comes to work as a waitress/maid in a run-down hotel in a nondescript provincial town somewhere in the south. Somehow, she falls in with the wealthy and influential men, particularly Charles Hartmann, a Jewish man of property, with whom she begins an affair, until it all ends for no obvious reason.

And I'll stop because the characters are not really worth writing about. Hartmann is Faulks. Anne is a cipher, a figment of the middle-aged man's fantasy, with just enough perkiness to make her interesting to Hartmann/Faulks as a conquest but not enough to make her resist his blandishments. Hartmann and all his friends all have multiple mistresses already but are bored with them, because, hey, they're French, what more needs saying?

Just in case the superior attractiveness of these wealthy middle-aged men to a malleable young woman isn't made clear, there is a pointless sub-plot in which the oikish young working class man of Anne's age who also works at the hotel spies on her in the shower - perhaps Faulks had his eye on a film version and thought there should be an excuse for the leading lady to have to flash the flesh? - and in case we don't get it, he has spots for good measure. Even more pointlessly, Hartmann/Faulks semi-seriously threatens her with a spanking at one point, including spelling out that he will take her knickers down for the purpose. Does this put off a shy young woman who is apparently still a virgin? Naah, course not.

As with Charlotte Gray, you keep reading for the plot, which generally rattles along. You never care about or believe in the characters, so that when the truth about Anne's background is revealed, it's all a bit of a 'so what'? Faulks can do better - he has. But will he manage it again? Not on this evidence.
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on 23 April 2017
As description good service.
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