23 July 2012

The Girl at the Lion d'Or

July always turns out to be such a busy month that, like last year, half of what I had planned for my Paris in July simply hasn't materialised and it's suddenly dawned that I have precious little time to settle into the Manchester Book Club's choice for July; The Sisters Brothers by Patrick Dewitt - a distinctly none-Parisian tale of two hired gun men in the Wild Wild West --------->

Much like my approach to food ;-) I hardly ever restrict myself with my reading and Paris in July is the only real 'challenge' I ever commit myself to, mainly because the boyfriend and I feel such an affinity with that wonderful wonderful place :-) My lack-of-blog-rules approach means that I like to be a bit freer with the challenge and almost have my very own 'France in July' ..... well, all roads lead to Paris after all! (apparently).

Quite honestly Faulks' The Girl at the Lion d'Or certainly didn't have priority out of all of the titles in our mini-library at home, it probably didn't even have a spot on Mount TBR yet I caved in to its small size and the promise of easy-reading after June's Bulgakov marathon. I read Birdsong last year and, although it hardly changed my life, it is immensely readable and provides us with a very important, if fictional, account of life during World War I. The Girl at the Lion d'Or, as part of Faulks' 'France Trilogy' therefore promised something I could dip into with ease. (Charlotte Grey, however, is another matter entirely...) 

Faulks focuses on the life of waitress at the Hotel du Lion d'Or; Anne Louvert, at first glance your typical girl next door but, in reality, a lonely young woman with a dark mystery that seriously hampers her struggle to maintain a tranquil, anonymous existence. Throw in a cast of intriguing French characters and a married lover; Charles Hartmann and we have a neat circular story that, without blowing me away, was a pleasant, speedy read to pick up whilst sheltering from the monsoon-like Manchester weather.

Despite the huge shadow of WWI that permeates this novel; i.e. Anne's Father and Hartmann's (who also appears in Birdsong) war experience, I unfortunately found myself feeling a little indifferent about the story and a fair few of the two-dimensional characters' within it. Even Anne, whose endearing normality and calm acceptance of her precarious existence can be so attractive, does irritate at times and I found myself being fairly unsympathetic towards the adulterous relationship between her and Charles that literally seems to spring up out of nowhere at the beginning of the novel.

Slight superficiality aside, Faulks clearly has a firm grasp on this period of history and it is undoubtedly interesting to explore the lives of those living in the wake of the devastation of the war and the then glorious decade that followed. Those living in the 1930s, anticipating further conflict yet mindful of the dark past are an intriguing lot to be introduced to and Faulks' domestic, occasionally more intimate portraits of these people suit the anxious times perfectly.

Not Faulks' best work but a nice little break and, since Anne hails from Paris, another little tick for my 'Paris en Juillet.' 

P.S: Alex (in Leeds) did make me giggle when she told me that she read this novel whilst looking after a sick friend since it was, by the sounds of things, the only book without a cheesy looking lilac cover in the vicinity....

I think that probably sums the novel up, nice, but nothing to write home about....

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