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Read: Fresh Water for Flowers is a must-read

Fresh Water for Flowers is a novel written by French author Valérie Perrin. Its protagonist is Violette Toussaint, the caretaker of a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne. Her home is the regular meeting place of villagers, the local priest, and the cemetery staff and undertakers. She doles out empathy and warmth to her visitors. Lurking in her past however are secrets and tragedy. Her life is upended by an out-of-town visitor and the encounter reveals the past conflicts, tragedies, and interconnected stories of people she used to know. 

My Thoughts:

I read Fresh Water for Flowers in a day. It was a Sunday, the weather was inclement, and because of a covid related lockdown, there was not a lot to do. The story enveloped me, and for almost three-quarters of the way through it, I couldn’t put it down. The tale is simply told, but it unfolds in such a gentle and seamless way that before long I was hooked. Violette is easy to like. She is a simple woman who has suffered great hardship and a life of being continually let down by those she loves and those who should be taking care of her. Yet, she keeps giving  – her time, her energy, her love. Sometimes it’s to strangers, and more often to people who simply use her. This is a love story, but not in a conventional way. Every person in the book is damaged in some way. 

What is interesting is the different voices Valérie Perrin uses in the novel. Violette’s own story is told in the first person – she is narrating her path through life, but also her emotional states, and her conflicts. In this way, the reader forms a very intimate connection with her. Other characters’ stories are told in the third person. In this way, there is a detachment from them. We see them as external to Violette and therefore most of them garner less sympathy. 

The book feels plausible. It is easy to imagine all these characters as real people, as though in some way this book is a documentary, and we are eavesdropping into the lives of neighbours. Perrin’s writing is poetic, but also firmly plot-driven. She includes surprises, and even shocks that though arresting are not overdone. 

Fresh Water for Flowers is a sumptuous exploration of relationships and the love, loss, secrets, and conflicts that can arise. It is a journey through life.   

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