Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Book Review: The Pleasing Hour

Whenever I have an appointment with the doctor who diagnosed my hypothyroidism, I have to drive 45 minutes (an hour and a half round trip). Thus, I ran into the library shortly before my last doctor appointment, hoping to select something quickly to listen to during the drive. I was hoping for another book in the Number One Ladies Detective Agency series.

Instead, I ended up picking up Lily King's The Pleasing Hour. From the very moment I began listening, I was bewitched. This author has an incredible skill for drawing characters. It felt as if I were being introduced to a painting and the author was shining a flashlight on each segment of the painting, one at a time, with each new revelation building on what was learned before. I found myself anxious to hear more of the story and discover more of the background.

The tale begins with a young girl, Rosie, who is arriving in Paris with hundreds of other girls to begin a new school-year shift working as an au pair (a fille - pronounced "fee"). Apparently, families in France bring in international girls each fall to begin a one-year stint in this nanny position. Rosie has come to Paris, not to work on her language skills, but to run away from an agonizing senior year and some intense personal pain. In the process, she struggles to keep up with the demanding mother and becomes keenly attached to the delightful daughter. Plus, she begins to uncover the secrets which drive the mother.

I will admit that half the fun of listening to this book was in hearing the narrator pronounce the French names and words (with names like Nicole - knee-cole, and Odile - o-deal, and Guillome - gee-ohm). It has such a pleasing lilt and I felt like I was right there in Paris watching the whole story take place. Still, I cannot praise this author enough for gently, gradually introducing each character and carving out their strengths and weaknesses, dishing up their past and revealing the secrets to their inner workings. For a first novel, this was remarkable.

I was desperately in love with the book, until I reached the final two cds. At that point, two characters veer off into a story line that I just couldn't appreciate. I'm not sure why authors feel a need to include sexual exploits in their novels. For me, it merely muddies the story.

Still, I absolutely loved the experience of listening to this novel and entering the world of Parisian au pairs. I will probably even check this one out again when I have a long car trip a few years down the line. The beginning was magical and I was swept away.

No comments: