France -- fiction
Three young sisters with a thieving past, Botille, Plazensa and Sazia were wanderers, surviving by any means necessary, moving from place to place once they wore out their welcome. The three sisters and Jabau, Sazia’s father, traveled to the French seaside town of Bajas, where for once they put down roots and became if not quite respected, still valuable residents. They open up a tavern and use their individual talents to bring in extra money. The observant and quick talking Botille becomes the town’s matchmaker; Plazensa puts her feminine wiles to use; and Sazia possesses her deceased mother’s ability to tell fortunes. In Bajas, they finally feel secure and content with their lives.
Dolssa is a noblewoman from Tolosa, who speaks of her beloved "Jhesus" to her family and friends who gather in crowds to hear her. But this is a very troubling time in the 13th century, shortly after a holy war has ravaged the countryside, dealing death to those judged as heretics as well as their enemy, the established Church. So, for Dolssa to have unsanctioned discussions about God and her personal relationship with her beloved Jhesus is reckless and does not go unnoticed. Dolssa is condemned as a heretic by Friar Lucien and is sentenced to death.
Karleen Koen’s Before Versailles is a splendidly rich story of romantic intrigue set in the early days of the Sun King’s rule. Louis XIV is a very young and handsome king. Newly-married to a virtuous if plain Spanish princess, he is determined to be true to his vows, but the ladies at court have other ideas—particularly his brother’s wife.
Taking Victor Hugo's novel, Les Misérables, and transforming it first into a play and then into a movie is like selecting from among the finest of crown jewels and crafting them into a beautiful brooch. Having seen the stage play many years ago and having read the book many, many years ago, I found the movie eminently satisfying, indeed beautifully done.
I had misgivings. They had, I thought, studded it with Hollywood stars just to draw the audiences. Nevertheless, it is very well cast. It was some time before I recognized Hugh Jackman since his first appearance was as the imprisoned Jean Valjean with grubby face and closely-cropped hair. It was not until he emerged as the respectable Mayor and beneficent factory owner that he was easily recognizable. Valjean's crimes had been the stealing of a loaf of bread and the subsequent breaking of his parole for which he is relentlessly pursued by the dogged Inspector Javert, played by Russell Crowe.
In Jean-Claude Mourlevat’s The Pull of the Ocean, Yann Doutreleau, youngest of seven brothers and the only one not a twin, whispered to the rest that it was time to go. The wind and rain were beating down in the November night outside their farm house in French countryside, but it was still time to go. Their parents, he said, were going to harm them.
Grief is a love story told backwards.
Heidi is no strangers to loss. She almost lost her mother as a child; she lost a baby. Two years ago Heidi lost her husband Henry, and she has been lost ever since. She is a gifted pastry chef who cannot even bake a cake for her sister’s wedding. The world has moved on but she has not. She is literally grief-stricken. She cannot explain to her now anxious germ-phobic son Abbott how in one moment your safe world can change suddenly and irrevocably. In The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, Bridget Asher captures Heidi’s sadness and her path back to love with great empathy, gentle humor and vivid imagery. The novel is sweet without being sappy and great for the armchair traveler to Provence.