A story told in dual perspective and timeline, I’m pleased to welcome Laura Madeleine’s return to the blog today with a review for
Where the Wild Cherries Grow
Having read The Confectioner’s Tale and loving it, there was no way I could miss this title – and what a complex yet lovely story it was. Dual narrators separated by fifty years bring us a story of finding who you are and just where you are meant to be. In 1969 London, Bill Perch is working toward becoming a solicitor, and his boss presents him with the lead on an investigation. Prove the death of Emeline Vane, who disappeared in 1919, in order to sell the family estate to a developer. To this end, Bill is sent on his first ever business trip (first out of London as well) to a small village in order to search the family papers to find his proof. He finds more – including a diary belonging to Emeline, and starts to believe, as her ailing brother does, that she is alive and didn’t simply wander off to die somewhere close.
Emeline Vane was the only daughter, with two elder and one younger brother – she was always imaginative and curious, and prone to her own flights of imagination. Now with the death of her mother from the Spanish Flu, and her older brothers at war, she’s the only person in the family home, Hallerton House, in Norfolk. In need of repairs, maintenance and money, there isn’t enough to go around and Emeline’s uncle is negotiating the sale. She’s still grieving and lonely, and her family believes she is not ‘all there”. A dinner party goes awry, and arrangements are made for her to be committed to a sanitorium in Switzerland, leaving her uncle in charge of her youngest brother, her life and her future. Emeline has consistently been plagued by her memories – using her mother’s remaining morphine to escape, and drugged by her uncle as she travels with him to Paris, awaiting a transfer to Switzerland, she jumps off the train and is rescued by a young man, loaded onto a freight train to ride the rails south.
Poor Bill, truly a fish out of water and far more conservative than the times and most of his friends, his first trip out of London faced with travel delays and hiccups and a decrepit house full of memories and strange noises, he’s befriended a distant relation of his boss – a “hippie’ who is both intriguing and scaring him. Piles of disorganized papers, holes and crows nesting and a strange sense that someone is watching have him all unsettled, and then he discovers Emeline’s diary – and starts to feel that she may actually have left for good reasons. When he returns to London, diary and photo in hand – and then leaves to meet the ailing brother that believes Emeline is alive – he’s off again – this time to Paris to track down her trail. Armed only with a letter and an address, he meets Puce, the man who rescued Emeline years ago – and is sent on a journey of discovery. From trains south to meeting a group of students intent on entering Spain via a little-known and less guarded crossing at the south of France – his story is one of a journey to being a ‘really good or horridly bad’ solicitor.
But, throughout Bill’s travels and travails, we learn of Emeline: her discovery of Cerbère in the south of France, and the woman Clëmence, her deaf son Aaró, and her new name, Emilie. Rich in history and tradition, Emilie takes her place in the family: learning to cook and feel again, falling in love with Aaró, and making a place for herself in this strange place: influenced by tradition, family, Catalan history and plenty of community. Another place at “the end of the world”, Emilie is making a new life with new hope, even as her old worries never quite leave her. From her arrival to the end of her story, she’s adjusting, growing and finding a path that is more than waiting about – forget waiting for her family to find her.
Lushly evocative with wonderful moments of food, description and traditions, the story does take a bit of time to acclimate to: as we meet Emeline first and her narratives are very detailed yet dreamy – almost as if she is setting a screenplay. Bill is intriguing for his flexibility and willingness to step out of his comfort zone: enjoying the adventure and difference even as he can’t explain why he needs so badly to find Emeline. Then the magic of the region, the traditions and the voices take over as each character comes alive and shares moments, giving a sense of who they were, who they are, and just who they are meant to be. Another slow to develop but poignantly rich tale that will keep readers happy in their own little mystery escape.
Title: Where the Wild Cherries Grow
Author: Laura Madeleine
Genre: Dual Timeline, Historic Woman's Fiction, Setting: Britain, Setting: France
Published by: Thomas Dunne Books
Published on: 13 February, 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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I closed my eyes as I tried to pick apart every flavour, because nothing had ever tasted so good before. It was like tasting for the first time. Like discovering colour . . .
It is 1919 and the war is over, but for Emeline Vane the cold Norfolk fens only are haunted by memories of those she has lost. In a moment of grief, she recklessly boards a train and runs from it all.
Her journey leads her far away, to a tiny seaside village in the South of France. Taken in by cafe owner Maman and her twenty-year-old son, Emeline discovers a world completely new to her: of oranges, olives and wild herbs, the raw, rich tastes of the land.
But when a love affair develops, as passionate as the flavours of the village, secrets from home begin blowing in on the sea wides. Fifty years later, a young solictor on his first case finds Emeline's diary, and begins to trace a story of betrayal, love and bittersweet secrets that will send him on a journey to discover the truth...
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.