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Book set in France (Illicit goings-on on the Ile de Ré)

11th September 2013

The Disappearance of Emily Marr by Louise Candlish, book set in France (on the Ile de Ré).

When we discovered that The Disappearance of Emily Marr by Louise Candlish was part-set on the Ile de Ré, we clearly had to read it! Afterall, there can’t be many books set on this tiny island, a holiday destination off the West coast of France, near La Rochelle – can there?

075154356X.01.ZTZZZZZZThe novel starts with the description of an horrific car accident; then the action moves innocuously enough to a smart street in south London. It is here that we meet Emily Marr, who at that point is at the tail end of her relationship with Matt, living in a flat at the shabbier end of the street. The couple is invited to a drinks party at their neighbour’s house and it is here that she meets Arthur Woodhall, eminent eye surgeon working both in Harley Street and in St Barnabus’ Hospital.

It is a well-written book that moves along at a good pace, with several twists and turns that can surprise, and the book is generally an engrossing and reasonably quick read; in parts it is quite thought provoking.

Pivotal to the whole story is the burgeoning relationship between Arthur and Emily. Arthur is significantly older than her and already has a wife and two sons, and early on the reader observes how he and Emily embark on an affair. It is hypothesised that Emily is looking for some kind of Father figure in Arthur, and that he is attracted to her because she is beautiful and young. Their relationship is described as having ‘some kind of rare passion, one of those one-in-a-million forms of human alchemy that had made him willing to risk his whole world for her’. But for us at TripFiction, well, we just didn’t get it. Arthur is a known repeat philanderer and the couple connection as portrayed seemed just a bit too simple to be sufficient to pull him away from his family. Much is made of Emily’s beauty in the latter part of the book (but this information is sparse in the first half of the book, adding to the question of exactly what the attraction was). Someone with a past such as his would surely be more inclined to run his various flings alongside his marital relationship (as he seems to have done in the past), rather than upset the marital applecart. There wasn’t anything tangible to explain why Emily, (who BTW has a penchant for wearing ‘pre-loved’ – secondhand to you and me – garments, random information I grant you, but you get the picture), and generally seems a bit unsure of herself, might catch his eye and be significantly different to his other conquests. But this issue aside, the novel has a lot of very positive qualities.

Louise Candlish tackles the issue of the way the Press can deal with figures who are perceived to go against the moral grain in a very incisive way. Following a catastrophic event, Emily has to go into hiding and is hounded by the press, and Nina Meeks, famous columnist in the popular press, goes to town on Emily’s misdemeanours. And it is depressing to see how easily things can be stirred up, at the expense of one individual – but then, that is no real surprise, that is how it often is.

Overall, without giving too much more away, it is a great read for those who enjoy a psychological element in their books, challenging subject matter, a delve into relationships and, of course, a great location.

Much of the story is set in England but a fair amount takes place on the Ile de Ré, an island that is ‘very relaxed, very low-key’ and is beautifully evoked by Louise: ‘The sand dunes and salt pans, the old stone cottages and terracotta roofs, the hollyhocks….’ it’s all there for a perfect holiday destination. In our copy (exclusive to Asda!) the author also takes her readers on a special photographic tour of the island, which is an extra delight. Having read this book, we are inspired to add this island to our ‘must visit’ list!

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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  1. User: Linda Dove

    Posted on: 30/05/2016 at 10:55 am

    Loved this book (and all her others) and now want/must go to the Il de Re!


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