My official start to summer reading has begun, and I am looking forward to a summer of reading, drinking, and enjoying the weather. I kicked it off with Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin, a refreshing summer cocktail, Pimm’s cup on my front deck with my husband and Penny. Penny wasn’t a good reading buddy because she wanted to go for a walk; however, she had just had surgery and had no idea she needed to take it easy for a few days.
Fresh Water for Flowers was named the lockdown novel during the height of the pandemic, and I am not sure why I didn’t read it then. However, I feel it makes for a great summer read!!!
What makes Fresh Water for Flowers a great summer read?
- Makes a great escapism read that transforms you to another place
- One to savor
- Eloquent, fluctuant, picturesque, poetic descriptive writing that appeals to your senses of sound, smell and taste.
- Gives us sense of everyday life
- Creates feelings of comfort and solace
- A story for of heart with a character to fall in love with, root for and learn from
Where to read Fresh Water for Flowers
Reading this one on your deck, in the backyard, or in the garden is the perfect place to enjoy this one. It will add to the description of gardening and food and will pull you from your ideal reading stop into the setting.
What to drink while reading Fresh Water for Flowers.
I think something refreshing to sip makes the perfect drink for this one. Maybe ice tea or lemonade with freshly squeezed lemon. My choice of drink was a Pimm’s cup cocktail with mint, cucumbers, and lemon.
What are some themes explored?
Life, loss, redemption, memories, happiness, growth, pain, and healing different types of relationships. Valérie Perrin gives us something a little different here while exploring grief and loss by using a cemetery as the setting. Through our main character, Violette, the themes become a celebration of life and love. I liked how we saw how Violette and her husband Philippe dealt differently with their grief.
A lot is going on as themes are explored and sometimes feel like they are quietly weaved together and then become busy with the various narratives and plot strands. Some darker events shocked me and disturbed the quiet feel of the story. A tragedy with buried painful secrets is revealed as the story moves back and forth between the present and past.
Are the characters likable or unlikeable and easy to connect and relate to? Do they change and grow with the conflicts they experience?
Violette is an engaging, likable narrator in the best way and easy to sympathize with. She is hardworking, kind, compassionate, sensitive, and vulnerable, with flaws and depth to her character. After a detective shows up at her door, she starts to question her life, and we see her grow and develop as a character. There is a large cast of likable unforgettable characters who cross Violette’s path, and we learn their story as Violette’s past and present life are slowly revealed.
“For a woman like me, not feeling compassion would be like being an astronaut, a surgeon, a volcanologist, or a geneticist. Not part of my planet, or my skill set.” ~ Violette
Violette and her husband Philippe experience a tragedy that adds a mystery element to the story, and we start to see more into his character and motivations. He is pretty unlikable with his cheating and lazy ways, but he becomes a character to sympathize with after the tragedy.
“My closest neighbors don’t quake in their boots. They have no worries, don’t fall in love, don’t bite their nails, don’t believe in chance, make no promises, or noise, don’t have social security, don’t cry, don’t search for their keys, their glasses, the remote control, their children, happiness..They’re not ass-kissers, ambitious, grudge-bearers, dandies, etu, generous, jealous, scruffy, clean, awesome, funny, addicted, stiny, cheerful, crafty, violent, lovers, whiners, hypocrites, gentle, tough, feeble, nasty, liars, thieves, gambles, strivers, idlers, believers, pervent, optimists. They’re dead” ~Violette
How did the setting add to the dynamics?
Violette is the caretaker at a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne and finds solace and peace with her routine and habits. She maintains the grounds and graves and grows vegetables and flowers in her gardens, creating a wonderful sense of place that provokes your sense of sight, smell, taste, and sound. She forms friendships and relationships with the colorful and eccentric staff gravediggers, Elvis, Nono, Gaston, the undertakers, the Lucchini brothers, and the priest Cedric who become her family. She goes beyond what a caretaker does as she cares for her garden of souls and makes the cemetery a place of life, hope, comfort, and memories.
“I planted some pine trees…[it’s]…all about caring for the dead who lie within it. It’s about respecting them. And if they weren’t respected in life, at least they are in death. [But] I’m sure plenty of bastards lie here…And anyhow, who hasn’t been a bastard at least once in their life?”
Did the story inspire me? Did the stories have me think deeply, challenge my thoughts, and see something different? Or learn anything new?
Yes!! Violette has an eye for observation, and I enjoyed seeing things through her eyes. She believes in happiness and seeks solace in her life and habits. That had me thinking about when life is too hard, we can find some comfort in the little things in life. Also, to take the time to see what makes us happy and not hide from change.
Do I recommend it? YES!!
Published in June 2020 and read in May 2022
Genre: Love story, mystery, drama
Have you read this one? What to read this one? What books have you read that make a great summer read?