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#TuesdayBookBlog LAKE OF ECHOES: A NOVEL OF 1960s FRANCE by Liza Perrat (@LizaPerrat) Recent history and a gripping and compelling story in a fabulous setting

Hi all:

I bring you a novel by one of my favourite authors, another one I discovered thanks to Rosie’s Book Review Team. And this is another great book.

Lake of Echoes by Liza Perrat

Lake of Echoes: A Novel of 1960s France by Liza Perrat

A vanished daughter. A failing marriage. A mother’s life in ruins.
1969. As France seethes in the wake of social unrest, eight-year-old Juliette is caught up in the turmoil of her parents’ fragmenting marriage.
Unable to bear another argument, she flees her home.
Neighbours joining the search for Juliette are stunned that such a harrowing thing could happen in their tranquil lakeside village.
But this is nothing compared to her mother, Lea’s torment, imagining what has befallen her daughter.
Léa, though, must remain strong to run her auberge and as the seasons pass with no news from the gendarmes, she is forced to accept she may never know her daughter’s fate.
Despite the villagers’ scepticism, Léa’s only hope remains with a clairvoyant who believes Juliette is alive.
But will mother and daughter ever be reunited?
Steeped in centuries-old tradition, against an enchanting French countryside backdrop, Lake of Echoes will delight your senses and captivate your heart.
Emotionally gripping historical women’s fiction for Kelly Rimmer and Kristin Hannah fans.
A testament to female resilience, depth and strength, this is a universal story set in a changing world.” JJ Marsh, author of The Beatrice Stubbs Series.

 mybook.to/LakeofEchoesEbook

Author Liza Perrat

About the author:

Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years.

When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her husband and three children for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator, and as a novelist.

Several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today.

Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in the historical “The Bone Angel” series set against a backdrop of rural France during the French Revolution. The second in the series, Wolfsangel, set during the WWII German Occupation of France, was published in October, 2013. The third in the series, Blood Rose Angel, set during the 14th century Black Plague years was published in November, 2015.

The Silent Kookaburra, a domestic noir, psychological suspense novel set in 1970s Australia, was published in November, 2016. The second in this Australian family drama series, The Swooping Magpie, was published in October, 2018. The third in this series, The Lost Blackbird, was published in August, 2020.

Friends & Other Strangers is a collection of award-winning short stories from Downunder.

Liza is available for virtual book club visits (via Skype) upon request.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Liza-Perrat/e/B008385OF2/

My review:

I had access to a very early ARC of this novel by Liza Perrat, the first in a new series, which I freely chose to review.

I came across Perrat’s novels through Rosie’s Book Review Team and have been an admirer and follower since. She writes historical fiction set in a variety of eras (from the Middle Ages to WWII, mostly in France) and also fiction set in the second half of the XX century, often in her native Australia. She combines complex and compelling characters (female characters usually take centre stage), with plots that grab the readers’ attention and don’t let go. That combined with a very vivid style of writing, the epitome of showing rather than telling (one can really see, smell, hear, and even taste what is happening to the characters and share in their experiences) mean that reading her novels is a truly immersive experience.

And this one is not an exception, but rather an excellent example of the best qualities of her writing.

Imagine a woman who’s already lost a child, having to live through the kidnapping of her now only daughter. Léa, who had poured her energies into her new project (an auberge by a beautiful lake) in an attempt at regaining some peace and thirst for life, is devastated, and her relationship with her husband, already strained, ends up breaking. To make matters worse, three other girls are also kidnapped and efforts to find them fail. Life becomes increasingly difficult, and the only hope Léa has comes from her two neighbours and friends, Clotilde and Bev, as Clotilde reads the cards and insists that the girls are all alive and well. Of course, nobody else believes them, time passes, and some sort of life develops, but Léa and her family keep waiting. And… Of course, I’m not going to tell you what happens, but the story deals with grief, loss, family relationships, also life in a small (French) village, prejudices and rumours, and how life has changed since the late 1960s (so close and yet so far).

I have mentioned Léa, who tells her story in the first person, with some fragments (in italics) when she remembers the past in a vivid and immersive manner that makes us identify with her, and suffer her same pain. Louise, Léa’s mother-in-law, is a strong character, one who is always proper and maintains the façade, no matter how difficult things get or what she might be feeling inside. We don’t see the story from her perspective, but we share in some of the other characters’ stories, although those are told in the third person. This is the case for Juliette, who is a delightful girl, intelligent, but she behaves like a normal eight-year-old and does not fully understand what is happening. Her interaction with the other girls and with the kidnapper and the people helping him (some more willingly than others) is tough to read but it feels believable within the parameters of the story.

We also get to share in the thoughts of the kidnapper (although we only know him by the identity he adopts and not his real one), his sister, Alice (a favourite of mine, despite her circumstances), and his wife, and there are other characters featured as well, all in the third person, with the occasional flashback. This maintains the mystery while allowing readers more insight into aspects of the story the authorities and the mother know nothing about.

It is difficult to talk about the baddy without revealing too much, but let me tell you he is a great creation, and being in his head at times is a scary and horrifying experience.

The setting is truly wonderful. Despite the horrific aspects of the story, it is impossible not to love the lake, the villages around it, the wonderful traditions, the festivals, the cooking… I am looking forward to reading more stories set in the area, and I know the author is already working on the second one.

The writing, as I’ve mentioned, is beautiful and also heart-wrenching at times. We experience the emotions of the characters, and also the wonders of nature, the change of seasons, and even the pets and animals have their own personalities and help readers feel at home there. Readers need not worry about the different points of view causing confusion, as there are no sudden changes in narrative voice, each chapter is told from a single perspective, clearly indicated, and the story is told, in chronological order, apart from a few chapters, with the dates also featuring at the head of each new chapter.

The whole of the story has something of the fairy tale, with Gothic-like houses, dangerous rivers, sometimes magical and sometimes scary woods, strange people living in the forest, and some characters that will remind us of some beloved characters. But the narrative works on many levels, and I was totally invested in the mystery as well. There are plenty of clues, red herrings, and hints dropped throughout the story, and many possible suspects. There is also a gendarme, Major Rocamadour, who grows on us as the story progresses, and we discover he is not all business. He does have a pretty tough nut to crack, though, but, without revealing too much, I can say that I enjoyed the ending, and the story ends up on a hopeful note.

I recommend this wonderfully written story to anybody who loves imagination, great characters, a strong plot, and who love a setting full of charm but also some underlying darkness and menace. Anybody who has read and enjoyed Liza Perrat’s previous novels is in for a treat, and those who haven’t met her yet… Well, what are you waiting for?

Thanks to the author for keeping me up-to-date with her work, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and always keep smiling!

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Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#DutchHouseAtHome #Bookreview by Ann Patchett (@BloomsburyBooks) A beautiful family saga full of magic and compelling writing

Hi all:

I’ve read great reviews of this novel and I couldn’t resist. It’s not for everyone, but I loved it.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

SUNDAY TIMES TOP 10 BESTSELLER

An unforgettably powerful new novel of the indelible bond between two siblings, the house of their childhood, and a past that will not let them go – from the Number One New York Times bestselling author of Commonwealth and Bel Canto


‘The book of the autumn. The American author of Commonwealth (brilliant) and Bel Canto (even better) releases perhaps her finest novel yet’ – Sunday Times

‘The buzz around The Dutch House is totally justified. Her best yet, which is saying something’ – John Boyne

“’Do you think it’s possible to ever see the past as it actually was?’ I asked my sister. We were sitting in her car, parked in front of the Dutch House in the broad daylight of early summer.”

Danny Conroy grows up in the Dutch House, a lavish mansion. Though his father is distant and his mother is absent, Danny has his beloved sister Maeve: Maeve, with her wall of black hair, her wit, her brilliance. Life is coherent, played out under the watchful eyes of the house’s former owners in the frames of their oil paintings.

Then one day their father brings Andrea home. Though they cannot know it, her arrival to the Dutch House sows the seed of the defining loss of Danny and Maeve’s lives. The siblings are drawn back time and again to the place they can never enter, knocking in vain on the locked door of the past. For behind the mystery of their own exile is that of their mother’s: an absence more powerful than any presence they have known.

Told with Ann Patchett’s inimitable blend of humour, rage and heartbreak, The Dutch House is a dark fairy tale and story of a paradise lost; of the powerful bonds of place and time that magnetize and repel us for our whole lives.

https://www.amazon.com/Dutch-House-international-bestseller-autumn-ebook/dp/B07PZVYMGL/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dutch-House-international-bestseller-autumn-ebook/dp/B07PZVYMGL/

https://www.amazon.es/Dutch-House-international-bestseller-autumn-ebook/dp/B07PZVYMGL/

Author Ann Patchett
Author Ann Patchett

About the author:

Ann Patchett was born in Los Angeles in 1963 and raised in Nashville. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In 1990, she won a residential fellowship to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she wrote her first novel, The Patron Saint of Liars. It was named a New York Times Notable Book for 1992. In 1993, she received a Bunting Fellowship from the Mary Ingrahm Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College. Patchett’s second novel, Taft, was awarded the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for the best work of fiction in 1994. Her third novel, The Magician’s Assistant, was short-listed for England’s Orange Prize and earned her a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her next novel, Bel Canto, won both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize in 2002 and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. It was named the Book Sense Book of the Year. It sold more than a million copies in the United States and has been translated into thirty languages. In 2004, Patchett published Truth & Beauty, a memoir of her friendship with the writer Lucy Grealy. It was named one of the Best Books of the Year by the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Entertainment Weekly. Truth & Beauty was also a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and won the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize, the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Alex Award from the American Library Association. She was also the editor of Best American Short Stories 2006. Patchett has written for numerous publications, including the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Gourmet, and Vogue. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, Karl VanDevender.

https://www.amazon.com/Ann-Patchett/e/B000AQ6QAW/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Bloomsbury Publishing for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

I’ve heard of Ann Patchett but hadn’t read any of her novels until now, and this seemed like an excellent opportunity to get started. And I really liked the book cover and was intrigued by the title as well. Having read this novel, I’m sure it won’t be the last of the author’s books I read.

Although most reviews are positive, some readers who are familiar with her previous novels felt disappointed, while others loved it as much, if not more, as her previous work. As I said, I have nothing to compare it with, but I enjoyed it. I loved the characters (most of all), I loved the setting, and the writing, that can be lyrical, touching, and humorous in turns.

This is the story of a family, or, to be precise, of two siblings and the people they meet along the way. Maeve and Danny become a family-unit through unfortunate (and at times bizarre) circumstances. Their mother leaves when Danny, the younger of the two, is only three years old, and Maeve becomes his sister/mother/life coach/career advisor and many more things. Their father, Cyril, a real estate magnate, is consumed by his business and never explains much, either about his background, their mother, or the house, the Dutch House of the title. When he marries Andrea, who has two daughters of her own, things change, and when he dies, things take an even more dramatic turn.

The story, such as it is, is narrated in the first person by Danny, who claims to have intended to tell the story of his sister (a rather extraordinary individual I’d love to meet in real life), but he realised that this could not be done in isolation from his own and from that of many others who had also played parts in the events they might not have been fully aware of at the time. Although there is an overall chronological order to the novel, Danny’s memory sometimes circles back and forth to moments or events that are related or linked, at least in his mind, to what he is thinking or talking about at the time. He explores the memories around the Dutch House (a seemingly mysterious place although things don’t go in the direction readers might expect), and how the different people seem to have contrasting versions of what went on and totally different feelings about it as well. Was their mother a saint, or a heartless woman who abandoned her children in her eagerness to help unknown others? Was Andrea a greedy woman (the wicked stepmother of fairy tales) who married their father for his money and then threw them out? Or did she truly love him and resented them for their connection to him? Was Maeve domineering and manipulative or selfless and generous? Why didn’t Danny’s wife, Celeste, and his sister get on? What power did the Dutch House have over its inhabitants?

As I have already mentioned, I loved the characters. Although we don’t get to know all of them completely (this is the story Danny is telling, and at times he can be remarkably lacking in insight and even curiosity), that is part of the charm of the story. This would make a great novel for book clubs, as there is much to discuss, and I am sure different readers will have totally different opinions on the characters and their possible motives and/or justifications. Interpretations are left open, and although there is an end (yes, a happy ending of sorts), the ending does not necessarily provide an explanation for everything that happens, at least not a definitive one. As is the case in real life, people are unknowable, and even those we think we know best can surprise us at times.

I also loved the house. The similarities to a fairy tale are mentioned in the description and in many of the reviews, and perhaps because we first see the house from the perspective of a little boy, there is something magical about it. There are secret drawers, paintings of previous owners, gold leaf decorations, hidden storage places, and the house seems to hold an ongoing influence over those who’ve ever lived or worked there. I would love to visit it, and the combination of grand mansion and some of the characteristics of a gothic castle work well and give it a strong personality, although it might not live up to everybody’s expectations.

I have read some of the negative comments, and I do understand them and don’t necessarily disagree with the points they make, although I feel they don’t detract from the novel. Some people note that there is no plot or story behind it and complain that it is slow. This is a family saga, and as such there is no conventional plot or a great revelation (there are quite a few secrets and misunderstandings that get cleared out, but that is not the same) at the end. Because this is a book about memory, family life, growing older, and forgiveness, it is not a straightforward narration or a page-turner where the main point is to keep the action moving. Life happens at its own pace; there are funny moments, sad moments, enlightening moments, inspiring ones, and disappointments as well. The writing is compelling, but people who love stories full of action and a quick pace should not attempt this novel, unless they are willing to try something different. Some readers also complain that some of the storylines are unrealistic… Well, this is a novel, and I’ve read some that required a much higher degree of suspension of disbelief than this one, but I am sure realism is not what the author was after.

I loved this novel and would recommend it to readers who appreciate a focus on character, beautiful writing, and some touches of magic and are fond of the adult fairy-tale. As usual, I recommend readers who aren’t sure if they’d enjoy it or not, to try a book sample and see how they feel. I look forward to reading more of Patchett’s stories in the future. I have the feeling that they won’t disappoint.

Thanks to NetGalley, to the publisher and the author, and most of all, thanks to all of you, my friends. Keep reading, reviewing and smiling!

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