- Book: Winter Flowers
- Location: Paris
- Author: Adriana Hunter (Translator), Angelique Villeneuve
Winter Flowers by Angélique Villeneuve, short novel set in WW1 Paris. Translated by Adriana Hunter.
As always with any novel from Peirene Press, the quality of the book is truly wonderful. They take such care over presentation, from the feel and quality of materials, to the French flaps that add a little je ne sais quoi. Their books are “Two hour books to be devoured in a single sitting: literary cinema for those fatigued by film” And there you have it, their books are a short and punchy delight.
Winter Flowers is set in the tail end of the war years, when everything was still very much a struggle – for those on the battle lines and differently for those valiantly struggling to keep body and soul together at home. Jeanne and Toussaint are a couple but Toussaint has been summoned to face the ‘boche’ whilst Jeanne remains at home looking after their small child Léo.
Jeanne continues with her art of creating decorative flowers that will be used by milliners and the like. Her cheeseparing is down to a fine art but she manages, as do her neighbours and acquaintances. There is no choice. She hears that Toussaint is wounded, his face has been badly damaged and consequently he does not want to see her during his recuperation at Val-de Grâce. He has to wear a facial prosthetic to cover what is left of his features. She feels it as a rejection but he is protecting her from the horrors of his wounds.
This is their story of how they learn to adjust, how Jeanne has to find a way of co-existing with a man who is very changed in looks and by his experience of war. Toussaint, upon his return, has to find a way to re-integrate into normal life and find a new and different role within the family and within society. And as they learn to co-exist the spread of Spanish Flu is starting to be felt.
The story really brings to life the horrific and personal consequences of war. This is an affecting story of a couple as the partners transition and discover a different kind of familiarity.