Thursday, July 9, 2015

Review: George's Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle

Some books just emanate a happiness from the shelf. They beam their goodness out with cheerful, happy covers and delightful sounding plots. Caroline Vermalle's charming novel, George's Grand Tour, is one of these novels, a small gem of a book. You can't help but read it with a smile on your face.

George Nicoleau is 83 years old. He's retired, a widower, and has a few health concerns. He and his best friend Charles, who live next door to each other in Chanteloup, France, are devotees of the Tour de France and together they have concocted a plan to drive the more than 3,000 miles of the world's most famous bicycle race. The timing is perfect since George's protective daughter is on a trip of her own and no one will miss him at home, at least not until his granddaughter Adele calls, having been instructed by her mother to keep tabs on her elderly grandfather.  Quelle horreur!  How can they leave now with Adele calling?  Luckily Charles' grandson forwards all calls to George's home phone to his cell phone, thereby saving the long hoped for trip.

As George and Charles travel the stages of the Tour, they meet strangers, make friends, learn to text when Adele figures out what is really going on, break out of the set ways they have long inhabited, argue with each other and then make up, enjoy the adventure of a lifetime, live in the moment, and George nurtures a growing relationship with the heretofore distant Adele. The two old men are quirky and lovely characters and the tale of them learning to live life to the fullest even at their stage of life is perfectly lovely.  Adele's life as a runner on television sets and her interest in entertaining her granddad with stories from her experiences add another layer to the tale.  The novel is quite short but gentle, life affirming, and emotionally affecting all the way through. There are hilarious moments as the old men confront technology and touching moments when they each realize the need behind their friend's stubborn insistence on something. The story is an ode to happiness, understanding, and the joy we seldom associate with aging. It captures love and friendship and hope beautifully, and left me smiling through tears in the end. A heart-warming tale, I hope this finds a wide and appreciative audience.

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