Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review: Whispering in French by Sophia Nash

Family can be the source of great joy but also great frustration and we don’t always know what we want to do with the history and legacy they place on our shoulders. Sometimes we think we know and sometimes we feel as if we have no choice, even when that choice is a hard and painful one. Kate Hamilton, in Sophia Nash’s new novel, Whispering in French, is faced with just such a painful task when she goes back to France at her mother’s behest to try and convince her elderly grandfather to sell the ancient, crumbling family villa.

Kate is half French and half American and she hasn’t been to France in years. A psychologist, she is considered the practical one in the family despite the shambles her own life is in. She’s left a terrible marriage and her teenaged daughter is estranged from her but it seems her most pressing problem is getting her grandfather Jean to agree to sell Madeleine Marie, the birthright of the Du Roque family for generations, perched precariously on a seaside cliff above a Basque village.  To the locals, although Kate's mother Antoinette grew up there, Kate is not quite considered “one of them” but an American and an outsider. She's not just an outsider in the town though, she's an outsider in her own life, unable or unwilling to look inside her own heart to find the woman behind the professional mask. As she tries to figure out the financial situation and navigate her family, her own guilt, and the bureaucracy of the town, she consults with Magdali, the loyal and trusted housekeeper with whom Kate once played as a child, and counsels the nephew of a long-time neighbor. Major Soames is a former soldier suffering from PTSD and shutting his family out of his life. His conversations with Kate (he's not really a patient) eventually lead her to face her own demons and to risk taking her own mask off.

The novel is told in the first person so that the reader really sees Kate’s insecurities and avoidance techniques. She even addresses the reader early on and acknowledges that this is a story she’s telling, an odd choice since the narration never breaks this wall again. In addition to Kate's telling of the story, there are brief "Whispers From the Garden" chapters interspersed into the narrative and these are focused mainly on an anthropomorphic hedgehog and cat. These chapters feel completely out of place, cutesy, and rather twee, even if the cat is necessary to the plot much later in the book. There are many plot threads here and more are added as the novel progresses but this constant addition of new and unexpected story lines, including surprising revelations about Kate's family, means that several of them are not developed terribly deeply. The main thread, though, is that of Kate's opening up and embracing risk while coming to know her true self, allowing that self to shine. Given the slow pacing of the novel, it takes rather a long time for her to get there, but get there she does. The general story is an interesting one but the ending feels unrealistic and unresolved although interestingly it does circle back to the otherwise seemingly unrelated prologue and the first chapter. Despite these flaws, Kate's transformation and the setting of the novel are both satisfying. I didn't like this as much as I'd hoped (especially as I've enjoyed Nash's Regency set historical romances) but it was a fine way to spend a couple of hours of reading time.

For more information about Sophia Nash and the book, check out her website, like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this book to review.

1 comment:

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