My rating: 2 of 5
ebook, 288 pages
Published July 15th 2014 by Ballantine Books (1st published Jan 1st 2014)
Available on: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle
What they say:
From the bestselling author of French Lessons comes a delightful and thought-provoking novel about love, family and marriage, set in the vineyards and beaches of Southern France.
What I have to say:
A Wedding in Provence. Good title for a book. Alluring and memorable. That was my first thought about this book. I’m all for romance stories in France, and what could be more romantic than a wedding surrounded by mountains and the Mediterranean Sea in the paradisaical French region of Provence? Oh la la! Le sigh!
Then there was the cover. How perfect is that lavender field? I can almost smell it and picture myself running through it towards the charming inn. How lovely does that peaceful sky look with its infinite tones of blue? How inviting do those perfectly aligned green trees and the mountains right behind them look? No, the cover doesn’t speak wedding but it does speak Provence. The font for the title looks exactly what it should look like. I see that cover and I want to read that story.
With that cover and title, I had high hopes for this book. I expected a romantic almost fairy tale like wedding story with lavish descriptions about the French countryside, food and culture. But sadly this story didn’t measure up to my expectations.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a lousy book. But I must be honest in saying that in my humble opinion, it is not the greatest story of all times, but an OK one to pass the time.
The premise and the setting is a good one: Olivia and Brody, a couple in their 50’s decide to invite their family to their friend’s charming inn in Provence, where they are going to host their wedding. Their guests arrive with more than just clothes in their luggage. They come with heavy baggage that attempts the nuptials from happening. Sibling rivalry + infidelity + friendship + a fabulous setting = a good recipe for romance and drama. The author had everything to knock it off the romance novels ballparks but to me it just felt like a bad spin-off/imitation of Mamma Mia, without the singing and the picturesque humor.
A Wedding in Provence by Ellen Sussman is a fast paced, quick read I would recommend reading in between heavy long reads. My main problem with this story is that it had too many characters. Everyone had something going on, but nothing seemed like a major plot to me. I couldn’t quite bond with any of the characters. I could never bond with Olivia. Brody, Emily, Sebastien and the other older ones, I just couldn’t sympathize with them. I also couldn’t completely bond with the young ones. There were only 2 situations I could relate with Nell and Carly, Olivia’s daughters:
Nell had never been a part of a group. She didn’t understand the need to move in packs, to dress alike, to fill every room with so much noise.
I’ve felt like Nell before. I’m a very contrasting person as I am an introvert but can be a complete extrovert once I feel comfortable with the people I’m with. But like Nell, I’ve never understood the need to cast yourself to one group or social circle. Why would you be so close minded and not take the chance to get to know different people? I’ve never liked to feel as if one must wear a uniform, or the need to wear what everyone else decides is the must-have thing to wear. I’ve never felt the need to speak or act in a certain way. I never belonged to a certain clique. I’ve always liked to do my own thing, embrace my originality and be myself.
Carly climbed onto her mother’s lap and watched the party for the rest of the night right there, tucked in her mother’s arms.
This was a line in the book that hit close to home. It reminded me when I was a little girl, and there was no safer place in the world than when I cuddled with my mother in her bed. The world could disappear but I wouldn’t notice when I had those moments with my mom. It took me back to my college years, when I was going through tough times and I longed to be tucked in my mother’s arms but couldn’t because we lived in different countries at the time. And it made me long for moments like this with my mother in my present life. I don’t know what it is, that when we grow up, we put on a tough facade, but one must admit that if we made moments like this happen in real life, we would be much more at peace with ourselves and happy in life.
Other than that, I couldn’t bond with the characters or their woes.
My other problem with the book was that I felt like Provence got ripped off, sort of. I pictured charming settings in my mind that were never described in the book. There were quite a bit of French phrases here and there but that was it. By the way, these French phrases, I speak French so there were no problem for me, but even though they could be considered cliche French phrases, I think they could be a turn off for non-francophone readers, as there is no way for them to figure out what they mean. I think the author should’ve creatively written the translation for those conversations with the French words. I don’t think readers would like to have to look in the dictionary/translator their meanings. It would take from their reading experience.
Oh and in terms of language, there is also an extended use of the f word. It’s not just here and there, it’s everywhere in the book. The story lacked intense drama. I didn’t see the point of using that word so much. It didn’t add any drama to the story.
Gladly in the end, everything is resolved and they live happily ever after. Even though it’s quite predictable, it’s nice that the story ends on a positive non-conflicting way.
Like I said, A Wedding in Provence is not a bad book, it’s a light quick read. It’s cataloged as chick lit, but I don’t feel like the young audiences can engage with this story too much. I can see it as a good choice for older women book clubs, where the topics of marriage, parenting and infidelity can be discussed. Here’s a link to the book’s reading guide.
- awry: adverb. Away from the appropriate, planned, or expected course.
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