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Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Literary Fiction

By Swirl and Thread

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Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin is published with Europa Editions UK. Beautifully translated from French to English by Hildegarde Serle, Fresh Water for Flowers is an International Bestseller having sold over 1 million copies worldwide. It is described as a novel ‘touching on the deepest aspects of human life…..brings out the exceptional and the poetic in the ordinary and reminds us of the life affirming value of kindness’. It is a book that just completely captivated me, a book littered with thought-provoking quotes that made me stop and think about so many different aspects of life. Matt Haig describes Fresh Water for Flowers as “a beautiful, intensely atmospheric bittersweet dream of a book” and Publishers Weekly said it was “a tender and poignant exploration of love, loss, and redemption”. A very memorable and special read, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I spent wrapped up in the story of Violette Touissant

“When I was born I didn’t even cry. So I was put aside, like a 2.67kg parcel with no stamp, no addressee, while the administrative forms were filled in, declaring my departure prior to my arrival.”

Violette Touissant never knew a family home, having been given up at birth and fostered out over the years. Now an adult, her life has traversed a multitude of obstacles, having experienced many hardships that have shaped her into the solitary individual she is today. Once a level-crossing keeper, she is now the cemetery keeper, in a small town in France, living in the on-site accommodation.

“My cemetery is very beautiful.”

Her earlier marriage to Philippe Touissant, a man she met when in her late teens, has left a permanent mark on her very soul. Now, alone, she has finally reached some kind of peace with herself. The shadows of her past are never too far away but in the daily company of three gravediggers, the local undertakers and the priest, Violette comes to a realisation that her life now, alongside the resting place of the dead, is her version of heaven.

“I savor life, I sip at it, like jasmine tea sweetened with honey. And when evening comes, and the gates to my cemetery are closed, and the key is hanging on my bathroom door, I’m in heaven.
Not the heaven of my closest neighbours. No. The heaven of the living.
My present life is a present from heaven. As I say to myself every morning, when I open my eyes.
I have been very unhappy, destroyed even. Nonexistent. Drained. I was like my closest neighbours, but worse. My vital functions were functioning, but without me inside them.
But since I’ve never had a taste for unhappiness, I decided it wouldn’t last. Unhappiness has to stop someday”

Fresh Water for Flowers is littered with an outstanding cast of characters all very much brought to life through the words of Valérie Perrin. The stories of many of these individuals overlap with Violette’s, creating a mysterious tale that is quite wondrous in the manner in which all is revealed. Grief, regret, love, loss and tragedy are very much central to this story as Violette’s past slowly unravels. Very much a quiet book, Fresh Water for Flowers has a great wisdom, each chapter opening with a magical quotation that forces the reader to stop and to take a moment. One such quote is the following which resonated deeply with me and is most certainly one I will call to mind when needed.

“You must learn to be generous with your absence to those who haven’t understood the importance of your presence.”

Fresh Water for Flowers is a spellbinding piece of writing with a glorious narrative that follows an eclectic bunch of people, all caught up in the contradictory nature of life and love. A deserved international sensation, Fresh Water for Flowers is a book that raises many questions about the living and the dead, about the past and the secrets buried. It is a study of humanity, a novel with many layers rich in all the senses.

Fresh Water for Flowers is Valérie Perrin’s English debut and is one that is sure to place her name on the tongue of many. A novel to be savoured, Fresh Water for Flowers is pure perfection.

A very intense, profound read, an emotional journey – C’est magnifique!

“It’s a luxury to be the owner of one’s time. I think it’s one of the greatest luxuries human beings can afford themselves.” – Violette Touissant

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.

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