Regular visitors to my posts and my website will know that I am an unashamed Francophile. And from time to time, my reading choices reflect that – can’t read hard-boiled and noir crime all the time!
Well, what a delicious delight Vanessa Couchman’s collection of short stories turned out to be. Quite a bit of my Francophile reading has been autobiographical tracts about living in France – and some truly great reading.
But Couchman’s French Collection is a wonderful little assortment of short fiction pieces – magnificent in their crossing over time periods and their capture of so much that is French. As my regular readers know, I don’t do spoilers. But here are a couple of lines of Couchman’s that jumped out at me.
The first, about a little place near Cahors in the south-west of France at the outbreak of the First World War:
“The August heat crushed the soundless village, stripped of men.”
So succinct, so powerful, so evocative.
And then here’s this one about a small town shop:
“...a place where the women span and embroidered their gossip.”
For me, Couchman captures so much of France, both contemporary and historical. And her use of language is an utter pleasure to read.
I was originally intending to make this my read on the commute to work for a few days. I started Monday morning on the train, continued Monday afternoon on the way home, and then kept the bedside light on Monday night until I had finished the collection.
My friends, if you are a Francophile like me, this is a MUST read. I absolutely loved it!
To be completely transparent, I am a complete Francophile and love reading books about people living there, old houses in the country, and the French way of life. Sometimes those writing such books don't do the narrative justice. No such problem here from Les Américains (a.k.a. Eileen McKenna and Marty Neumeier).
Well, I loved it! The depiction of living in the Dordogne with all the trials and tribulations of an old farmhouse, along with the French way of doing things, is wonderful, and thanks to the lovely prose, Eileen and Marty's story is a pleasure to read. And I should mention their daughter, Sara, a chef, who features in the book and has included a dozen recipes from the region - looking forward to trying my hand at some of them, too.
From the book comes one of the most lovely of quotes I've ever read about the south of France:
"...the sun was low in the sky and the landscape had turned green and gold with long purple shadows. Vineyards and wheat farms alternated with clumps of forest, and wide expanses of sunflowers gave off an intense yellow light collected from the long summer day. We had never seen such beautiful farms. There were pale amber and tan colored houses with stone walls and clay tile roofs..." (p.25)
For Francophiles this is a must read! Thank you Eileen and Marty.
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