The TripFiction Book Club July/August ’19 reads ‘A Summer Reunion’ by Fanny Blake
Novel set in the South of France
9th May 2019
The House on the Edge of the Cliff by Carol Drinkwater, novel set in the South of France.
I have been very much looking forward to reading this novel. We visited Carol back in the late Summer of 2018 at her Olive Farm and on the morning we met, she had literally just pressed send on the manuscript for this book!
This is a dual timeline novel that accompanies Grace, aged 16, to Paris in 1968, when there was huge unrest. The City of Light is where she first meets Peter. Peter, from the get-go, falls in love with her. Leaving the tumult and unrest in the city behind, they head down to the South of France to stay with his aunt Agnes in the eponymous house of the title. A wonderful, artsy house overlooking the Mediterranean, not from Marseille (Cassis and le Ciotat are within easy driving distance).
“The energy, the stillness, the immensity, the awesomeness of the surrounding nature. The villa, cleaving to its cliff, beckoned; a haven in its panorama….” An Idyllic location for sure.
In present day Grace and Peter, now in their 60s, are living in the very same house and Peter is awaiting a heart operation and must not suffer any stress.
A blast from the past – Pierre – suddenly descends on their generally easygoing life. Grace was smitten with this older man during the Summer of Love (1968) and although she was technically ‘with’ Peter, she had her first real sexual awakening with this attractive and simultaneously bad boy reprobate drug user (it was the time of LSD use, psychedelic passion, free love and more…). Peter (not to be confused with Pierre) took a back seat and faced her affair with dignity. Or so it seems.
Back in those heady Summer days Pierre and Grace were swimming and Pierre disappeared after an argument and under the influence of drugs. She did her best to locate him but the conclusion was that he surely died? But as the past comes back to haunt Grace, she has to re-examine what went on all those years ago whilst managing a very aggressive and stalkerish intrusion into her now comfortable life. She must also keep Pierre’s resurrection from Peter in his fragile state whilst they await his surgery and she thus lays herself open to manipulative and controlling behaviour which she has to manage on her own.
With a few deft twists along the way, the story unfolds with a nice, rounded conclusion. Some of the descriptions of life in the 1960s feel as though they may be autobiographical (especially as Grace is an actress) and because that period in particular is written with aplomb and a sense of veracity. And of course we at TripFiction have been privileged to visit Carol’s house, where she now lives, overlooking the Mediterranean… so perhaps her beautiful home has inspired much of this book.
As author Jenny Colgan says: “Carol Drinkwater’s writing is like taking an amazing holiday in book form“. That is a very acute observation. Enjoy.
Tina for the TripFiction Team
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