Peaches for Monsieur le Curé by Joanne Harris

Peaches for Monsieur le Cure

I enjoyed The Lollipop Shoes (reviewed here) so much that I dove straight back into the third installment of the Chocolat series. Peaches for Monsieur le Curé is set eight years after Chocolat (reviewed here) when Vianne recieves a letter from a deceased friend in Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, she decides to return to the village with her daughters. Vianne finds Lansquenet has changed dramatically in the intervening years with an influx of Muslim immigrants, and the atmosphere in the village is tense as the French villagers clash with the newcomers.

Like Chocolat, the narrative switches between Vianne and her old adversary, the village priest, Francis Reynaud, who finds himself under suspicion from both his own congregation and the Muslim community when a school for Muslim girls burns down.

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Unlike Chocolat and The Lollipop Shoes, which had a certain timelessness, I suspect Peaches for Monsieur le Curé will be easier to place in time as it reflects the real-world political tensions and suspicions between Muslim immigrants and the native French. Lansquenet is as rife with secrets and discord as ever, yet there is reason and tolerance, as well as prejudice and hypocrisy on both sides of the conflict.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find Peaches for Monsieur le Curé quite as charming or captivating as its predecessors but I did enjoy returning to Lansquenet-sous-Tannes and it had enough suspense and mystery to keep me guessing until the end. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

 

Summer Solstice

What a strange year it’s been, it seems like a lifetime ago that we were watching wildfires sweep across Australia on the news and worrying about Brexit, yet here we are halfway through 2020. It’s been a quick year for us personally as our daughter arrived in early February and caring for her has kept us busy during the last few months when a global pandemic turned life upside down.

Our garden has also been a real blessing and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve been able to get done with a baby in tow.

June Roses

June is the month that the roses burst into flower, and since we moved here I’ve been steadily filling our garden with them. There’s the rich red wine coloured Munstead Wood, the bold pink Young Lycidas, and pale sunshine of Crown Princess Margareta. Meanwhile Boscobel is patiently waiting in a large pot for a permanent home.

Every year I vastly underestimate how much space growing vegetables need so I limited myself to broccoli, squash and yellow courgettes this year; then my dad surprised us with some cabbage, cauliflower and sprouts seedlings he’d started off so the veg beds are as crowded with higgledy piggeldy rows of vegetables as ever.

We’re still getting out for walks at least once a day, more often than not with the wee one in the sling or carrier so she can look around. We haven’t ventured out of our local area yet but I enjoy having a nosy at other people’s gardens, and we found a little woodland walkway when we wandered off the beaten track.

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On days when it’s too wet to spend much time outside, we’ve contented ourselves pottering around the home, reading books or watching films and TV series, and playing with the wee one – including a few spontaneous puppet shows.

There have been more visits to and from parents and in-laws, which have helped break the monontony and given us all a much-needed boost as we remain under partial lockdown. Our daughter has been very curious about the “new” faces appearing after spending so much time around me and her dad.

Hope everyone reading is safe and well, take care and have a lovely week. X

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

As a child who loved to play outside and help my parents in the garden, The Secret Garden thoroughly captured my imagination and was one of my childhood favourites, I recently found myself reaching for my old, crinkled and faded copy again when I was in the mood for some comfort-reading.

The Secret Garden follows nine-year-old Mary Lennox who is orphaned during an outbreak of cholera in India and sent to live with her uncle in Yorkshire. Mary is left to amuse herself exploring Misselthwaite Manor and the grounds where she finds a walled garden that has been locked and forgotten about for ten years.

I’ve always loved that Mary starts the story as a disagreeable, impudent and stubborn child, so different from other heroines in children’s stories, which makes her transformation into a lively, determined and cheerful child all the more remarkable, and mirrors the rejuvenation of the secret garden itself.

Along the way Mary befriends the kind but plain-spoken Martha, the grumpy yet sentimental gardener Ben Weatherstaff, animal-charming Dickon, and her cousin Colin who undergoes his own journey of healing and growth alongside Mary’s.

The Secret Garden is a lovely story of friendship, life and nature that captures the joy of nurturing a garden, and the curiosity and sense of wonder that comes so naturally to children. In the era of TV, social media and smartphones, the underlying message championing the value of nature and spending time outside for health and well-being seems as relevant now as it did when it was published in 1911. Have a lovely week. X

Emerging from Lockdown

Emerging from Lockdown

We’re tentatively emerging from lockdown in our part of the world. Although some of the restrictions have been lifted, life has continued for us much the same as it has for the past few months, we shop for food once a week, my husband will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future, we take our daily walks for exercise, and my only other excursions have been taking our daughter to various health appointments.

This weekend though we were finally reunited with my parents and I was so glad to spend some time with them after three months apart, though it was very strange not to be able to hug or kiss them, or let them hold the baby. As much as I miss haircuts, libraries, dining out, the freedom to come and go as we please, and all the other aspects of life I took for granted before, being cut off from our family and friends has been by far the hardest part.

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It was a bittersweet reunion as our daughter has spent most of her life under lockdown, and the last time her grandparents saw her was at my nanna’s funeral when she was a tiny, sleepy 5-week-old, since then she’s grown into a chubby, curious and cheerful 4-month-old. Yet I know how lucky we are to be reunited at all when so many other families are mourning loved ones who lost their lives to Covid-19.

One benefit of the lockdown has been that my husband has been able to work from home, which has given us time together as a family that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. We’ve settled into our roles as parents, found a daily rhythm that works for all of us, and our daughter is healthy and content.

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Evening light

Throughout the lockdown, I’ve been very grateful for our garden, which has given us another environment to explore with our daughter full of sensory experiences while other activities are unavailable. The garden itself is full of life and colour at the moment.

We try to make our garden as wildlife friendly as possible, even so I’m always delighted by how many different types of bee visit the garden, and it’s fun trying to identify them all. We also heard the hedgehog snuffling around the hedge one day while we were outside so we left a bowl of water and some cat food out for it (don’t tell Mara!), though I’m wary of getting too close for fear of fleas and ticks.

Even though restrictions are starting to relax, while the virus remains a threat it’s hard to imagine life going back to the way it was before, and impossible to imagine what the year ahead will look like with all our plans from significant birthdays, friends’ weddings and other events we were looking forward to postponed or cancelled altogether, yet I’m so relieved that we’ve all weathered this storm and a little normality has started to resume. Take care, and have a lovely week. X