Friday, April 17, 2015

Book review of French Coast by Anita Hughes

My review today is for French Coast: A Novel a brand new release by Anita Hughes, who is celebrating her birthday today (hence the extra book review post this week). They say never judge a book by it’s cover, but from the moment I saw the cover of this novel set in Cannes, I wanted to be that girl and I knew I had to read this book.

French Village Diaries book review French Coast Anita Hughes Cannes ProvenceTwo young women, Serena and Zoe, find themselves in Cannes during the Film Festival for different reasons, but very soon their lives there become entwined. Serena has the perfect life, a handsome, successful fiancé and her dream job as editor at Vogue. Zoe is more secretive as to who she is and why she is in Cannes, but there is family history and mystery to be revealed for them both and as their stories unfurl we slowly begin to get to know them. A third woman, Yvette, whose private life is also a bit of a mystery, adds another side to the story and lots of elegance to the plot. As this book moves on there are many twists and I kept thinking I’d made a discovery only to watch it fade as the plot shifted in another direction.

All of this drama is played out in the South of France with plenty of passion and lots of fashion, as to be expected for guests in a suite at the Carlton-Intercontinental Hotel. However, as I’m a village girl and not really a fashionista, I tired a little of the constant descriptions of which designer name was being worn by each character whenever they appeared, but I’m sure many would disagree with me, especially as the main characters work the fashion industry.

This book has a great plot and will take you away from your day to day life and immerse you in Cannes and the high life many of us can only dream of. It is a perfect summer read, especially if you are lucky enough to be holidaying in the South of France.

French Coast: A Novel is available in paperback (from 1st May 2015) and ebook (now) and links to Amazon can be found below. You can also follow Anita on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Book review of Pas Possible by Jessica Pasa

My review today is for Pas Possible: Falling in and out of Love with France by Jessica Pasa, a memoir of time spent studying in France.

French Village Diaries book review Pas Possible: Falling in and out of love with France Jessica Pasa Paris Toulouse memoirIn this book we join Jessica as she visits France to improve her French, firstly on a short high school exchange with a family who own a chicken farm south of Paris and later on as she spends a year studying in Toulouse. I fell in love with this book in the introduction where we learn that her grandparents, who had an extraordinarily colourful background, spoke French at their home in the US and probably sowed the seed that led Jessica to France. I would love to read more about her family history, as her grandparent’s journey from Europe to Morocco and to the US sounds fascinating.

Jessica knows that France is somewhere she has to visit and from the beginning of her first trip she embraces the experience, despite things not always being easy. This led to a great relationship with her original host family that was to last many years and visits to the US and France. Her enthusiasm was contagious and I enjoyed reading about her experiences and travels somewhere so far from home.

The year she spent studying in Toulouse was more difficult, but she shared her experiences openly and honestly. Fitting in is not always easy and although she may have changed her goals and ideas as her life in Toulouse progressed, it was still obvious that she learned a lot from her experiences and she gives the reader a great insight into student life away from home. She also really made me want to visit the city that has been on my wish list for a while and as it’s only about a four hour drive from home I do need to put in a bit more effort and get there.

As any good memoir author does, Jessica left me wanting more, hinting at how she is now married (to a Francophile bien sûr) so more adventures in France might one day be the subject of another memoir. I’m waiting!

Pas Possible: Falling in and out of Love with France is available in ebook format and a link to Amazon can be found below. You can also read more from Jessica on her blog and follow her on Facebook.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

My patisserie challenge, tartelette aux framboise

French Village Diaries patisserie challenge boulangerie tartelette aux framboise
My patisserie challenge tartelette aux framboise

Welcome to my patisserie challenge where every Sunday I am treating myself to something different from our village boulangerie. The sun has been shining today and along with the blue skies, bird song and my patisserie choice of tartelette aux framboise my appetite is well and truly whetted for the flavours of summer.

The tartelette aux framboise (individual raspberry tarte) is a circular pastry shell filled with crème patissiere and glazed fresh raspberries. I think it’s simplicity adds to it’s deliciousness; the pastry is just thick enough to hold it’s precious load, the crème patissiere (custard) adds a comforting creamy texture and the fresh raspberries, generously packed in and shining with glaze, just burst with flavour when you bite in. It is one of my favourites with its perfect combination of crunch, creaminess, sweetness and flavour, but then I do have a soft spot for raspberries.

Don’t forget to join me next week to see my next choice from Bernadette at the boulangerie.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Book review for The Rocheforts by Christian Laborie

Today I’m taking part in a virtual book tour via France Book Tours for The Rocheforts: A Novel by Christian Laborie.

French Village Diaries book review The Rocheforts Christian Laborie France Book toursSynopsis provided by the publisher.
Two very different families are bonded by scandal in this sweeping story of love, greed, and betrayal. Anselme Rochefort has built an empire manufacturing serge de Nîmes, or denim. His biggest client? Levi Strauss. As the craze for blue jeans begins to sweep the globe, Rochefort Industries seems poised for untold success. But Anselme can be as cruel and ruthless with his family as he is in business. The Rocheforts’ neighbour Donatien Rouvière has one of the region’s most prosperous farms and is desperate for a son to carry on his legacy. After the births of three daughters, the Rouvières adopt an orphan from the Sisters of Charity convent and raise him as their own. When Anselme suggests uniting the two families by arranging for their children to marry, it seems like the perfect match. But as the lives of the two clans grow increasingly intertwined, dark secrets come to light, including the mysterious circumstances of the death of Anselme’s eldest daughter. With The Rocheforts, Christian Laborie weaves a captivating tale of deceit, intrigue, and the dynamic tension between industrialization and a way of life rooted in the land.

My review.
This is a family drama set in the early 1900’s when the farming of silk worms in the mulberry trees of the Cévennes and the denim and silk mills in Nîmes were big businesses. We meet two families, the Rocheforts and Rouvières whose different backgrounds and lifestyles don’t stop them being bound together in drama and deceit. The Rochefort men were ambitious and proud (to the point of arrogance) which often led to heated disputes that threatened the family unit. The Rouvières were more down to earth and honest, but fate stepped in more than once to entwine their lives together. The characters were all very different and I enjoyed the way they developed throughout the novel, some were not to my liking at the beginning but I warmed to them in their latter years. The women were the ones who I felt demonstrated the strength and intelligence to hold their families together.

This isn’t a fast paced excitement filled read, but with an underlying current that I knew would come to a head at some point, there was plenty of interest to keep me page turning. I really enjoyed the historical backdrop of this novel, as I knew very little about the silk and denim production process. It was fascinating to follow the family dramas played out alongside the farming of the era and the more industrial life of fabric making at the mills. I love the Cévennes region in France and am looking forward to going back there soon and now a visit to Nîmes is on my agenda too.

I would love for there to be a follow up novel. This book saw them through the years from 1898 to 1929, but how will the Second World War affect the families?

French Village Diaries book review The Rocheforts Christian Laborie France Book tours


Christian Laborie
was born in the North of France
but has lived in the southern region of Cévennes
for more than twenty years.
The Rocheforts is his first novel to be published in English.

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French Village Diaries book review The Rocheforts Christian Laborie France Book tours

Sunday, April 5, 2015

My patisserie challenge, Easter special

French village Diaries Easter bells cloche de pâques boulangerie patisserie france nid de Pâques Easter nest
My patisserie challenge Easter special

Happy Easter to you all and welcome to my patisserie challenge. This year I have decided to buy something different from our village boulangerie every Sunday and to enjoy the simple pleasure of treating myself each week. Easter is a time of year when sweet treats are aplenty and in a village boulangerie/patisserie that also makes it’s own chocolate I was spoiled for choice today. Thankfully Easter also marks the time of year when the garden is awakening and there is plenty to do outside, so my excess calories from the Nid de Pâques (Easter nest) and the dark chocolate bell, filled with more chocolates, were nicely balanced out by a day of hard work, including a good few hours walking with the lawnmower. Mmm, patisseries, chocolate and gardening - that really is my idea of a perfect day.

The Nid de Pâques is a small circular cake with two layers of light, moist Genoese sponge, filled and topped with an airy chocolate mousse (I could have chosen coffee or praline flavour, but chocolate rules in my book) and decorated with toasted almonds on the side and sweet eggs on top. It was lovely. The almonds gave a tasty crunch and I really couldn’t fault the light texture of the sponge or the deliciousness of the creamy chocolate mousse. It’s a shame Easter only comes around once a year.

French village Diaries Easter bells cloche de pâques boulangerie patisserie france
Easter bells
In France, although there are plenty of bunnies to be seen at Easter, tradition has it that the church bells are the ones to give out the chocolate eggs to the children. The bells fall silent on Maundy Thursday as they fly to Rome, returning on Easter Sunday with eggs for all. I’m not sure our old church bell takes part anymore as I definitely heard it dinging it’s slightly flat Angelus on Saturday.

Don’t forget to join me next week to see my next choice from Bernadette at the boulangerie.

Here are my previous patisserie challenge posts, in case you missed them: