Fiona Valpy is at it again; combining romance, heartbreak, sadness, joy, dreams, nightmares, bad weather and a very merry non-Christmas.
After reviewing Fiona’s book, The French for Always, in April this year – I can see how she’s developed as a storyteller, leaving the usual frothy chick-lit recipe behind and weaving a story that’s not afraid to cover darker topics including still birth, divorce and poverty.
A year to forget. The perfect escape…and a little Christmas magic
Evie used to LOVE Christmas, but this year she can’t wait for the tinsel and presents to be a distant memory.When her best friends offer the use of their cottage in the beautiful French countryside, Evie jumps at the chance. With her soon-to-be-ex-husband, celebrity chef Will Brooke, plastered over the news with his latest ‘love interest’, leaving the country seems like the perfect plan. Armed with her French grandmother’s tattered notebook of recipes, Evie is determined to ignore Christmas altogether and bake herself back to happiness.
And when Evie meets her next-door neighbour – the très gorgeous doctor Didier she finds a very willing taste-tester. But is it possible that he could be interested in more than just her Tarte Tatin?
The blurb downplays the sadness in TFFC, making it sound more bubbly and merry then it is. This isn’t a criticism on the book, as although the first chapters are difficult read, the devastating topic of stillbirth and child loss is delicately handled. Evie’s wish to stop having to pretend, and to be able to just run away, resonates with me and my struggles with depression and being bipolar. Keeping a smile on your face, especially at christmas time, is exhausting.
Evie wishes to escape the whole charade, and is offered a bolt hole in France for her to hideaway in relative peace whilst the rest of the world celebrate. Whilst we don’t all have an elegant french cottage to run away to, the peace and clarity that comes with a new environment (especially one without a phone signal) is a familiar dream for anyone going through a tough time. Once Evie meets her neighbours, an elderly couple, a tall dark handsome doctor and a pregnant horse, the story gets a lot happier – but the sadness is never forgotten, just elegantly handled alongside the funnier chapters. Without spoiling the tale I can assure you that Evie does get her christmas, even when her ex-husband pops by for his portion of stuffing,,,
Valpy’s writing style has really improved with this latest offering, here are some of my favorite quotes from The French For Christmas:
My bees, listen. [..]They know that if they can just keep going through the cold, one day summer will come. They couldn’t survive as individuals, but together, as a community, they get each other through the tough times. A good example to us humans.
And Mother Nature, despite being so shabbily treated by the world at large so that now she has her own problems to contend with, has persisted in her efforts to make me see the beauty that’s been there all along, but to which my grief had blinded me.
And my favorite, in which Fiona’s character Evie reminds us all that Christmas can still be enjoyed even at the saddest of times:
[On Christmas] No matter how far you run, no matter how hard you try to shut it out, it creeps up on you from behind and ambushes you with its beauty and its traditions and its pure, bloody-minded determination to remind the world about what’s really important. Making the light shine at the darkest time of the year. Bringing joy, and hope, and abundance to counter sadness, and despair, and scarcity.