This book has been shortlisted for the Virginia prize for fiction. It’s not an award I am familiar with but anything that manages to find its way onto a shortlist has got to be good, hasn’t it?
Also I have no idea what kind of karmic forces are at play here but I find that i, invariably, greatly enjoy books written by anyone with the name ‘Kate’ ! What’s that all about?
Even so, you know sometimes you pick up a book, glance at the cover, read the blurb and have no real expectations. You start reading. continue to be underwhelmed and then something changes, quite subtly. And what you thought was yet another ‘father wants to help estranged son on a murder charge by taking the granddaughter he’s never met on a boat trip through the waterways of France’ type story is elevated.
I think that when you read a lot of books it becomes harder to find true originality and this book seemed full of situations and circumstances I felt I’d read before. Chocolat was frequently brought to mind. The storyline follows a parallel path with Colin and his granddaughter, Delphine, on the beautifully named boat, The Dragonfly and Colin’s son, Michael, in remand on a murder charge. The two work well and prevent the story from becoming one dimensional.
This is not a tale overpopulated with functional characters. These are ordinary people dealing with extra ordinary circumstances as best they can. They are well developed and believable in their deeds and emotions. The narrative is written from Colin’s perspective in the main but it never becomes one sided. What impressed me was the writer’s perception and understanding of the behaviours and emotions of a child struggling with an unenviable burden. I was moved to tears on more than one occasion. And its a rare book that does that to me.
It’s an undemanding read on most levels with a satisfactory conclusion, perfect to take away on a summer holiday, especially France! It’s not as superficial as chick lit, it has more depth but I guess if you want to categorise it it is a love story, a story about developing relationships on many levels but a love story with some substance.