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Monday 30 May 2016

'A French Wedding': Book Review

For our next book review, we again have Gabriella Dessanti reviewing.

This time, 'A French Wedding', by Hannah Tunncliffe.

Here is the beautiful cover:

And here is Gabriella's excellent book review:

This is a celebration of friendship throughout the decades, with six college friends brought together to celebrate Max’s fortieth birthday at his villa in Brittany, France.
During the course of the weekend the friends indulge in a feast of the senses, with local produce cooked with elegance and flair by Juliette (Max’s personal chef) and matched with an abundance of wine. The friends enjoy having fun, getting drunk and generally acting like teenagers as they reminisce about their past to the exclusion of those who don’t form part of their exclusive group, causing tensions and feuds.
Through the weekend secrets are revealed that will forever change them all. Seeing each other again after so many years forces each of them to look into the mirror of their own souls; to assess whether they have made the right choices in life. We see the friends predominately through Juliette’s keen observation skills and analysis of people’s behaviour, learnt from her experience as a chef of a Parisian restaurant. There is also a scattering of rich flashbacks providing context to the relationships and depth to the story.
A significant part of the book is told through Max’s perspective. Max is a one dimensional character - a musician with Peter Pan Syndrome, a drunk, a womaniser and selfish. Max appears to have it together, according to his friends; a successful musician living out his passion, yet he is lonely and yearns for love, in the form of Helen. Outwardly she personifies the beautiful Helen of Troy but with a modern twist; both dangerously alluring with a wealthy upbringing, yet this Helen is broken, growing up without unconditional love and support has left her with negative self worth. Like Max, she is financially successful and has had numerous transient relationships, however she has heart and soul and is not afraid to display the occasional glimpse of sadness. Max plans to put his 'grand plan' into action and finally declares his love to Helen.
In contrast to Max and Helen’s wildness and spontaneity, Rosie, who is the third main voice in the novel had a grand plan from the start: married, with kids and with the financial security and social status she desired. Yet she, like everyone else, has regrets and frustrations, and the events over the course of the weekend provide an impetus for change. Even Juliette isn’t immune; she has been hiding from herself in layers of secrets, guilt and regrets - her only solace is her cooking, and as an aftermath to the weekend she takes ownership of her life to reclaim peace and happiness.
Overall I found the women to be the strongest and most intriguing characters in the novel and I particularly enjoyed the character of Juliette who I thought cleverly brought the story together. She is intimately entwined with food and with the French surroundings, and she has an aura of mystique, which commands your attention.
This is a heart-warming read, transporting you to the Douarnenez seaside via rich imagery and culinary delights ending with a love-affirming wedding.
Rating: 3.5 stars, to be enjoyed with your favourite wine as the perfect accompaniment... Bon appetite!
Postscript: I attended Hannah’s book launch and had the opportunity to taste the kouign-amman pastry that is referenced throughout the book. Max, we now have something in common… we share a favourite pastry!
'A French Wedding', by Hannah Tunncliffe is out now through Pan Macmillan.

Hannah Tunnicliffe is the author of two previous novels, The Colour of Tea and Season of Salt and Honey. She is founder and co-author of the blog Fork and Fiction, which, unsurprisingly, explores her twin loves - books and food. Although a self-confessed nomad, she currently lives in New Zealand with her husband and daughters.
See the rest of Gabriella's book reviews here and here and here and here.

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