Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Review: A Gift From Brittany: A Memoir of Love and Loss in the French Countryside by Marjorie Price

In 1960 twenty-eight year old Marjorie Price did a daring and brave thing. She bought a ticket on a transatlantic ship to Paris, third class. Alone. Her family and friends (who call her Midge) are shocked and dismayed. Young ladies just don't DO that in 1960. But Midge is determined. She is an artist, a painter, and Paris is where artists are nurtured, taught, inspired.

Of course, she meets a man. Fellow artist, and native Frenchman, Yves sweeps Midge off her feet and they are soon married. They are very happy together and have a beautiful daughter, Danielle. After a couple of years they begin looking for a summer place. A little cottage in the country by the sea where they can escape the bustle of Paris and paint in peace.

La Salle

Yves finds a place he says is perfect. An ancient farm house and other buildings that make up half of a tiny hamlet in Brittany. Spartan and without any modern conveniences, it is far from what Midge had in mind. But he is insistent and she is forced into the purchase of La Salle.

At first living conditions are rough but the place works its charm and they begin to fix it up. Midge meets her neighbors, among them Jeanne, a peasant woman nearing seventy who lives in a cottage with no running water or plumbing, has never ridden in a car, eaten in a restaurant, watched television, talked on the telephone, or even been farther than a few miles from her home.



Jeanne

Over the next few years, Yves personality begins to change radically. As her marriage disintegrates, Jeanne becomes the closest friend that Midge has ever known, they form a bond of friendship that transcends their differences in culture, age or language.

Marjorie (Midge) Price
I loved this book. It is a wonderful, loving tribute to a special woman who was the product of a dying way of life. Even during the years she lived at La Salle, Midge saw beautiful old stone farms being bulldozed to make room for pre-fab houses. The peasant life the Jeanne endured is completely gone now. While the country life may seem like an idyll, the author makes clear that Jeanne's life was one filled with back breaking labor and a paucity of sentiment.

This is a story that is at once heartwarming and heartbreaking. Here is a peek at a European way of life that endured for centuries and then completely died out in a few decades. It is one of the best memoirs that I have ever read and I highly recommend it. It would be an excellent choice for book clubs.

Please visit Marjorie Price's excellent website where you can see more photos of La Salle and Jeanne, read excerpts from the book and see examples of Marjorie's beautiful paintings. (The watercolors are my favorites).

A Gift from Brittany is published by Gotham Books. ISBN 978-1-592-40434-6

8 comments:

bermudaonion said...

That book sounds absolutely marvelous!

The Tome Traveller said...

It is! I really enjoyed it. Amazing how the bonds of friendship know no bounds.

Molly said...

I received this book as well! I have saved it to read after school is out, probably over Memorial Day weekend. It sounds like it will be a great way to start my summer.

Great review!

Zibilee said...

Great review! I love books that deal with eras that have passed by and think that this book would be an amazing read. Thanks for posting this!

J. Kaye said...

Your blog was mentioned as A Book Blogger’s New Discovery by Alvah’s Books.

Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading said...

Great review! I love to travel to other place in my books.

tashiana said...

wow this sounds pretty good
i usually like memoirs-especially those about strong women

Valerie said...

I love memoirs, haven't quite read one like this.
But it sounds pretty enjoyable and inspiring!
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About Me

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.