Fresh Water for Flowers is the most extraordinary, moving tribute to the resilience of human spirit. I must admit that I don’t remember when last time I was so deeply touched by a story. This book hugs YOU, offers comfort and numerous moments of tenderness, as well as it evokes the spirit of profound emotions filled with many wonderful references to the French music and literature.
This tale evolves around a small graveyard in a small French town, Bourgogne. We meet an array of interesting, nuanced characters, including our main protagonist, Violette. The story of Violette’s life is slowly revealed to us through her own words or through the interconnectedness with the lives of other people: Violette’s difficult childhood, being born with nothing, her tragic marriage to Philippe, her daughter, her life working as a bartender, then as a level crossing keeper and finally her life as a cemetery caretaker.
“A man of fifty-five died from smoking too much (…). They never say that a man of fifty-five can die from not having been loved, not having been heard, getting too many bills, buying too much on credit (…). Noone ever says that you can die from having been too fed up, too often”.
At some point Violette says that others speak about her life as though she did not exist, as though she was a problem to be solved, not a person; as though she was absent from her own story. Throughout her life she was often diminished by others, degraded, mistreated, and looked down . I don’t want to share much about the story itself in order not to spoil the pleasure of reading this magnificent book for others.
Fresh Water For Flowers is a tale about difficult love, mature love, grief, loneliness, god, death, the absence of those whom we love, relationship between people and their animal companions. There are many insightful observations about relationships between parents and their adult children, also about finding love at the later stage in life.
Violette has become one of my favourite characters. Despite multiple tragedies and hardships in her life, she remained extremely sensitive, delicate, thoughtful, non-judgemental in her relationships with others. Violette is a great observer of human fragility and relationships with enormous empathy towards those she encounters.
This is a profoundly sad story, but at the same time it leaves the reader with a sense of hope and belief in the strength of a human heart.
Perrin’s writing is sublime, elegant,lyrical, melancholic, just beautiful; it is one of the best writing I have read for years.
I highly recommend this book to everyone in need of a gentle read. Fresh Water For Flowers by Valérie Perrin will provide a reader with many moments of comfort, bliss, and a real reading delight.This is one of these rare books which soothes one’s soul. Word s cannot describe how much I loved this story!