Title: The Matchmaker of Périgord
Author: Julia Stuart
Genre: Literary fiction (and I think dabbling in the burgeoning food-lit genre too)
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: August 5th, 2008
Paperback: 318 pages
Stand alone or series: stand alone
Why did I read this book: I saw it on the end-cap facing out on the new releases shelf of my library. The cover art first caught my eye, followed up the blurb on the jacket saying, “For any reader who adored Chocolat…” Ok FINE I did not read Chocolat but I saw the movie and adored that! So there *glowering huffily*
Summary:Barber Guillaume Ladoucette has always enjoyed great success in his tiny village in southwestern France, catering to the tonsorial needs of Amour-sur-Belle’s thirty-three inhabitants. But times have changed. His customers have grown older—and balder. Suddenly there is no longer a call for Guillaume’s particular services, and he is forced to make a drastic career change. Since love and companionship are necessary commodities at any age, he becomes Amour-sur-Belle’s official matchmaker and intends to unite hearts as ably as he once cut hair. But alas, Guillaume is not nearly as accomplished an agent of amour, as the disastrous results of his initial attempts amply prove, especially when it comes to arranging his own romantic future.
Review: Ms. Stuart introduces us to the inappropriately named town of Amour-sur-Belle as there is no amour to be found. We follow middle-aged protagonist Guillaume Ladoucetteas he transitions from his lifetime passion and career of barbering to being the village with a population of thirty-three’s (33) match-maker. Along the way Guillaume’s childhood love returns as a divorcee to the village and joins the cast of crazy, eccentric, gossipy, food obsessed characters that make up this tiny hamlet.
There were quite a few laugh out loud moments with constant comedies of errors, family feuds, grudges, nicknames (such as the mushroom poisoner) and and also a few salivary moments as Ms. Stuart did not skimp on food descriptions. I want that goat cheese tart infused with walnut oil from the abbey!
Actually Ms. Stuart did not skimp on ANY descriptions and that was my main gripe with the novel. Every new room/street/house/garden that Guillaume walked into was written in extreme detail, so much so that I thought, “There must be a purpose, is this foreshadowing?” But as much as I appreciated being shown what surrounded Guillaume and what his village/home/shop/car looked like, ultimately it got boring and was too wordy. For example:
Above the bath taps was a set of shelves bearing a collection of exquisite gentlemens’ soaps. The bottom row was reserved for those he deemed too splendid to use, which were simply taken out of their boxes and sniffed. Next to the taps was a large loofah and a natural sponge containing two chest hairs. Lined up on top of the small marble-topped table by the sink was a razor in it’s box, a blue shaving mug that had belonged to his father and a badger-hair shaving brush with an ivory handle.
Besides the soap “too splendid to use” (I have totally saved soap/lotion like this before) none of the other items needed description in such detail. And this is the way EVERY SHELF in his basement was treated, every row of vegetables in his garden was treated, etc. It was too much.
With all this detail I DID get a really vivid picture of the village and it’s inhabitants, which I appreciated, but then so much of the description kept being repeated. Did Ms. Stuart think we would forget? She copied phrases and entire paragraphs word for word five, six, seven times. Some examples:
supermarket leather sandals
crawled his hairy toes
(s)he wore an ancient dress cut off at the knees and her hair twisted up with something sparkly
And whenever a new character was introduced we learned their entire life history, their parents names, occupations, how they did in elementary school, who their first kiss was, did they cheat on their spouse, how were they caught, were they happy, etc… Each villager was SO QUIRKY and SO INTERESTING that I wanted to know about them, their story needed to be told, but it made the narrative flow very choppy.
I would recommend this book to someone who loves to travel and loves France (both of which I adore) but this is not a “chick lit” book for everyone.
Notable quotes/parts: I LOVED how Guillaume went to the doctor and they diagnosed him immediately with a “broken heart” for all the unshed tears they could see in his throat and ears. This was a powerful description for me, even though it was a bit fantastical in an otherwise very down to earth novel.
Verdict: Loved the anecdotes about eccentric characters, but would have made a better short story about JUST Guillaume, or collection of short stories, with less repetition.
Filed under: Contemporary, Grade C | 7 Comments »