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Violette Toussaint is the caretaker at a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne. Random visitors, regulars, and, most notably, her colleagues—three gravediggers, three groundskeepers, and a priest—visit her as often as possible to warm themselves in her lodge, where laughter, companionship, and occasional tears mix with the coffee that she offers them. Her daily life is liv Violette Toussaint is the caretaker at a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne. Random visitors, regulars, and, most notably, her colleagues—three gravediggers, three groundskeepers, and a priest—visit her as often as possible to warm themselves in her lodge, where laughter, companionship, and occasional tears mix with the coffee that she offers them. Her daily life is lived to the rhythms of their hilarious and touching confidences. Violette’s routine is disrupted one day by the arrival of a man—Julien Sole, local police chief—who insists on depositing the ashes of his recently departed mother on the gravesite of a complete stranger. It soon becomes clear that the grave Julien is looking for belongs to his mother’s one-time lover, and that his mother’s story of clandestine love is intertwined with Violette’s own secret past. With Fresh Water for Flowers, Valérie Perrin has given readers a funny, moving, intimately told story of a woman who believes obstinately in happiness. Parrin has the rare talent of illuminating what is exceptional and poetic in what seems ordinary. A #1 best-seller in France, Fresh Water for Flowers is a delightful, atmospheric, absorbing fairy tale full of poetry, generosity, and warmth.


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Violette Toussaint is the caretaker at a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne. Random visitors, regulars, and, most notably, her colleagues—three gravediggers, three groundskeepers, and a priest—visit her as often as possible to warm themselves in her lodge, where laughter, companionship, and occasional tears mix with the coffee that she offers them. Her daily life is liv Violette Toussaint is the caretaker at a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne. Random visitors, regulars, and, most notably, her colleagues—three gravediggers, three groundskeepers, and a priest—visit her as often as possible to warm themselves in her lodge, where laughter, companionship, and occasional tears mix with the coffee that she offers them. Her daily life is lived to the rhythms of their hilarious and touching confidences. Violette’s routine is disrupted one day by the arrival of a man—Julien Sole, local police chief—who insists on depositing the ashes of his recently departed mother on the gravesite of a complete stranger. It soon becomes clear that the grave Julien is looking for belongs to his mother’s one-time lover, and that his mother’s story of clandestine love is intertwined with Violette’s own secret past. With Fresh Water for Flowers, Valérie Perrin has given readers a funny, moving, intimately told story of a woman who believes obstinately in happiness. Parrin has the rare talent of illuminating what is exceptional and poetic in what seems ordinary. A #1 best-seller in France, Fresh Water for Flowers is a delightful, atmospheric, absorbing fairy tale full of poetry, generosity, and warmth.

30 review for Fresh Water for Flowers

  1. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    This is a beautifully written story of tragic loss and grief, but it is tempered by friendship and beautiful memories and love. Violette Toussaint has been the caretaker of a cemetery for twenty years . A recluse in a way, at night when it’s quiet and the people she interacts, with the gravediggers - Nono, Gaston, Elvis , the undertakers - the Lucchini brothers and the priest Cedric have left for the day. She interacts with others, as well, those who bury, those who mourn. I found it so moving h This is a beautifully written story of tragic loss and grief, but it is tempered by friendship and beautiful memories and love. Violette Toussaint has been the caretaker of a cemetery for twenty years . A recluse in a way, at night when it’s quiet and the people she interacts, with the gravediggers - Nono, Gaston, Elvis , the undertakers - the Lucchini brothers and the priest Cedric have left for the day. She interacts with others, as well, those who bury, those who mourn. I found it so moving how reverential and respectful, Violette was to those who were buried there as she meticulously records their funerals, the celebrations of their lives, and tends to the graves when families are unable to with flowers. It’s a wonder how she is able to do this when she is filled with grief of her own, but as her story unfolds, we understand why she is there. She hasn’t had a happy life, with exception of the years with her daughter Leonine. Abandoned at birth, moving from foster home to foster home, she seeks solace in a marriage which isn’t a happy one. A cast of characters cross Violette’s path and their stories are revealed as the novel progresses. Her missing husband Phillipe, his miserably mean spirited mother and father, her dearest friends Celia and Sasha, one of my favorite characters, the former caretaker of the cemetery who makes her laugh. Her life, though, will be changed forever when Julien Seul shows up at her door bringing with him the story of his mother Irene Fayolle, whose ashes he wishes to bury at the gravesite of a man buried there. The plot becomes a little more complicated as the stories entwine, and I won’t talk more about it here, other than to say, I was captivated. Each chapter begins with a poetic thought, too moving not to share a few : “When we miss one person, everywhere becomes deserted.” “There’ll always be someone missing to make my life smile: you.” “Life is but a passage, let us at least scatter flowers on that passage.” “You’re no longer where you were, but you’re everywhere that I am.” I love when a translation is so beautifully rendered. It doesn’t always happen this way and sometimes I feel as though I miss out from not reading the story in its original language. This didn’t feel like a translation, so kudos to Hildegarde Serle, and of course to Valerie Perrin for this beautifully , affecting story of a character I will remember. I received an advanced copy of this book Europa Editions through Edelweiss.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Fran

    "My present life is a present from heaven...As I say to myself every morning...I have been very unhappy, destroyed even...But since I've never had a taste for unhappiness, I decided it wouldn't last. Unhappiness had to stop someday". Violette Trenet got off to a bad start. She was abandoned at birth and raised in a succession of foster homes. At seventeen, waitressing at a bar, she met Philippe Toussaint. "The first months of my life with Philippe, I was on a perpetual high...but...I think he was "My present life is a present from heaven...As I say to myself every morning...I have been very unhappy, destroyed even...But since I've never had a taste for unhappiness, I decided it wouldn't last. Unhappiness had to stop someday". Violette Trenet got off to a bad start. She was abandoned at birth and raised in a succession of foster homes. At seventeen, waitressing at a bar, she met Philippe Toussaint. "The first months of my life with Philippe, I was on a perpetual high...but...I think he was already cheating on me...he went for rides on his motorbike...Philippe only worked occasionally". Their daughter Leonine, born in 1986, brought Violette her greatest joy. Leonine amused her father Philippe for a few minutes but then he was off cruising on his motorbike. In 1997, Violette and Philippe Toussaint arrived in Bourgogne to become the cemetery keepers at Brancion-en-Chalon Cemetery. "When it came to laziness, I'd won the lottery with [Philippe]". Violette was the sole cemetery keeper after Philippe became a police footnote, a "disappearance of concern". Violette's cemetery was a very beautiful place. "I planted some pine trees...[it's]...all about caring for the dead who lie within it. It's about respecting them. And if they weren't respected in life, at least they are in death. [But] I'm sure plenty of bastards lie here...And anyhow, who hasn't been a bastard at least once in their life?" How was the cemetery kept ship shape? There were three gravediggers: Nono,the most trusted, Gaston, a clumsy oaf, and Elvis, who couldn't read or write but knew the lyrics to every Elvis Presley tune. The Lucchini Brothers: Pierre, Paul and Jacques, were the undertakers. "Since Father Cedric Duras's arrival, many women...seem to have been struck by a divine revelation...I think I'm more confided in by those that pass through then Father Cedric is in his confessional. It's in my modest home and along my cemetery avenues that families let their words pour out". Early morning daily gatherings, before the cemetery opened, provided an opportunity for Violette and her colleagues, her true friends, to share their experiences. How about the time Nono warned Gaston that the soil was crumbly this season, but Gaston tumbled into a grave face down. Elvis started singing...Face down on the street, in the ghetto, in the ghetto. Violette exclaims, "Sometimes, I feel as if I'm living with the Marx Brothers". Through back stories, the reader learns of unspeakable tragedy and heartbreak, colorful anecdotes, infidelities and surprising liaisons. The multi-faceted characters are very engaging. Several mysteries abound. Julien Seul arrives at the cemetery to explore his mother's "cloudy" request. Perhaps "rotten to the core" Philippe is not what he seems. "Fresh Water for Flowers" by Valerie Perrin introduces the reader to Violette, a delightful narrator with a zest for life. Violette provides her "cemetery family" with food and drink and tends her garden and flowers. She could occasionally be seen as a "fluttering ghost" on a unicycle scaring teenagers who, with beer in hand, ran screaming into the night heading for the cemetery gates! A delightful tome I highly recommend. Thank you Europa Editions and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I loved this story from the start.. the story of Violette who has been living on her own as a cemetery keeper in a small town in Bourgogne for many years. She has many regular visitors.. gravediggers, groundskeepers, and a priest to her lodge there on the cemetery grounds who are her colleagues but also her close friends. Violette had been in an unhappy marriage that involved a tragic loss.. and also a job loss.. before this cemetery job and one day her husband took off on his motorcycle and has I loved this story from the start.. the story of Violette who has been living on her own as a cemetery keeper in a small town in Bourgogne for many years. She has many regular visitors.. gravediggers, groundskeepers, and a priest to her lodge there on the cemetery grounds who are her colleagues but also her close friends. Violette had been in an unhappy marriage that involved a tragic loss.. and also a job loss.. before this cemetery job and one day her husband took off on his motorcycle and has never returned. There are a few other stories that branch out from Violet’s.. some that have to do with some of the people buried in her cemetery... one especially, that so moved me! A story of love, loss and grief..and finding your way through the darkness! Beautiful! Thank you to Netgalley and Europa and especially the author for this ARC!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    This book is guaranteed to move you— halfway through, I noticed how choked up I was.....and soon I was crying. Slowly I was absorbing the depths of this -breathtaking - story.... multi-layered—a type of meditated trance - if you will - between life and death....and how I ( just one tiny person) - belonged to both: life and death in almost equal measure. I was learning a subtle lesson from the intricate lush details - about how to live fully immersed with what so many others have kept silent. Viol This book is guaranteed to move you— halfway through, I noticed how choked up I was.....and soon I was crying. Slowly I was absorbing the depths of this -breathtaking - story.... multi-layered—a type of meditated trance - if you will - between life and death....and how I ( just one tiny person) - belonged to both: life and death in almost equal measure. I was learning a subtle lesson from the intricate lush details - about how to live fully immersed with what so many others have kept silent. Violette Toussaint was a cemetery caretaker in a small town in France: Bourgogne- Brancion-en-Chaplin cemetery. She had worked there for more than twenty years.. Violette had an ageless look about herself. She could pass for a 14-year-old or a 25-year-old. ...We meet the gravediggers: Nono, Gaston, and Elvis... ...We meet Violette’s dog: Elaine ...We meet the undertakers: The Lucchini brothers: Pierre, Paul, and Jacques. The Lucchini brothers, ( 38, 39, and 40), were the owners of the Brancion morgue. ...We meet the Priest: Father Cedric Duras ...We meet many visitors: one being a stranger - a local detective - who shows up at Violette’s door early one dark morning. Violette let the strange man into her house and served him coffee ( coffee was always ready to go)....she described her room ( the place she had lived 20 years): The room that Violette stayed in, really belonged to everyone. It was a small room with a kitchen-cum-living room. There were no photos on the wall or colorful tablecloths or couches— just lots of plywood and chairs to sit on. Nothing showy… Yes there was always a pot of coffee ready. It was the room for “desperate cases, tears, confidences, anger, size, despair, and the laughter of the gravediggers”. Violette’s bedroom was upstairs. She repainted it after her husband Philippe’s disappearance. No one had ever stepped inside her bedroom after he left. .....There’s more backstory about Philippe Toussaint - their meeting, their short marriage - his handsomeness - his womanizing - and his disappearance. Violette’s real home was out in the courtyard. She knew almost every dead person, their location, their death, everything. She had a funny habit when any person visited her house on the grounds though.......(one that was felt deeper to me as the story unfolded).... Violette never switched on the light in her place if someone came to visit.....but as soon as they would leave, (walk out the door), she replaced them with light, ... .... an old habit of a child given up at birth. This was such a heartfelt beautiful book... I’m still on the edge of tears as I sit here reflecting it. I went back over my notes. I laughed and cried at the same time the second time re-reading gorgeous moments - scenes - in this book My gosh....I have SUCH A THING for ‘Europa’, books, anyway....and this gem didn’t disappoint! A couple more things to share - but I don’t want to spoil the actual story about Violette....and her LIFE....( her circumstances, history, people she meets, her gifts, or even too much about her charming unique character).... but there are a couple of excerpts I can’t resist sharing.... The very beginning is soooo cool! I’ve read this 3 times....and each time...thought of new things: “My closest neighbors don’t quake in their boots. They have no worries, don’t fall in love, don’t bite their nails, don’t believe in chance, make no promises, or noise, don’t have Social Security, don’t cry, don’t search for their keys, your glasses, the remote control, their children, happiness.” “They don’t read, don’t pay taxes, don’t go on diets, don’t have preferences, don’t change their minds, don’t make their beds, don’t smoke, don’t write lists, don’t count to 10 before speaking. They have no one to stand in for them”. “They’re not ass-kissers, ambitious, grudge-bearers, dandies, petty, generous, jealous, scruffy, clean, awesome, funny, addicted, stingy, cheerful, crafty, violent, lovers, whiners, hypocrites, gentle, tough, feeble, nasty, liars, thieves, gamblers, strivers, idlers, believers, perverts, optimists. “They’re dead”, “The only difference between them is in the wood of their coffins: pine or mahogany”. Also.... .......sooooo beautiful are the epitaphs at the start of each chapter.... After reading this book - I went through the novel once more...just to read-read many of these powerful engravings.... Impossible not to cry when I read one after another after another Here are a few: “There’ll always be someone missing to make my life smile: you”. “May your rest be as sweet as your heart was kind”. “His beauty, his youth smiled upon the world in which he would have lived. Then from his hands fell the book of which he has read not a word”. “Talking about you is making you exist, saying nothing would be forgetting you”. “Soothe his rest with your sweetest singing”. “Sleep, Nana, sleep, but may you still hear our childish laughter up there and highest Heaven”. —— Speech for Marie Geant “There’s something stronger than death, and that the presence of those absent in the memory of the living”. “The day someone loves you, the weather’s marvelous”. “Fresh Water for Flowers is deeply affecting... with flowers “a bit like ladders up to heaven”..... ......written with stunning reserves of compassion, humor, and wisdom. Violette Toussaint is an extraordinary character— a woman of incredible heart and spirit who will remain in my memory for a long time. Thank you Europa Editions, Netgalley, and Valérie Perrin

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    !! NOW AVAILABLE !! ’My name is Violette Toussaint. I was a level-crossping keeper, now I’m a cemetery keeper.’ She began her life with a mother that did not want her, and abandoned her. As a newborn, she never uttered a sound, and so they filled out the forms declaring her deceased before she took her first breath. Once upon a time she married, and had a child, but now lives alone. No longer as young as she once was, she devotes her time to those who reside inside the gates of the cemetery w !! NOW AVAILABLE !! ’My name is Violette Toussaint. I was a level-crossping keeper, now I’m a cemetery keeper.’ She began her life with a mother that did not want her, and abandoned her. As a newborn, she never uttered a sound, and so they filled out the forms declaring her deceased before she took her first breath. Once upon a time she married, and had a child, but now lives alone. No longer as young as she once was, she devotes her time to those who reside inside the gates of the cemetery where she lives, even if they no longer have that luxury. Violette shared the job of the cemetery caretaker, if not in actual caretaking with her husband, Philippe Toussaint, who was a man too lazy to do much more than play video games or ride off on his motorcycle while Violette did the work. However, Philippe was not a man too attached to home or his wife for very long, so this is really Violette’s story, and while it takes place in a somewhat melancholy setting, the story is so beautifully written that I found myself highlighting so many passages from the first page on. Passages that are often heartbreaking, but at the same time so lovely, meaningful, and that build upon the layers of the story previously created. There are twists and turns to this story that are better left for the reader to discover, but, for me, it was the charm that Violette brings to this story as its narrator that kept me completely engaged and savoring every word from the first one to the last. Pub Date: Jul 07 2020 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Europa Editions

  6. 5 out of 5

    Carole

    I have just finished reading Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin, translated from the French by Hildegarde Serle and I wish I had the time to start reading it all over again. This is the most beautiful book to come out of my TBR pile this year. Violette Toussaint lives in a little house in a cemetery in Bourgogne in France. She is the caretaker of this cemetery and she tends it with love and pride. Her world revolves around the tending of the graves and the care of the aggrieved. Her frien I have just finished reading Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin, translated from the French by Hildegarde Serle and I wish I had the time to start reading it all over again. This is the most beautiful book to come out of my TBR pile this year. Violette Toussaint lives in a little house in a cemetery in Bourgogne in France. She is the caretaker of this cemetery and she tends it with love and pride. Her world revolves around the tending of the graves and the care of the aggrieved. Her friends are the people who cross her path there. So far, it doesn’t seem like much of a story but it is so lyrical, so touching, so sad and so rewarding. This is the life of a young woman who goes through some of life’s most tragic events and attempts to keep her head and her heart in the right place throughout. It is a Sunday afternoon kind of read. I recommend it to all. Thank you to Europa Editions and NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ingrid

    A beautiful and at times delicate story about a cemetery keeper and the people she encounters albeit dead or alive. I just loved it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    Oh my where do I begin with how much I loved this novel? Middle aged woman, French small town, characters galore, cemetery keeper, ponderings and musings. Translated from French and I have to say the translation (Hildegarde Serle) is pure perfection. Some of the sentences in this novel will stick with me. I love, love novels about life and death, grief and longing, absence and presence. If I had to define keywords for novels I like it would be those.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mary Eve

    Charles de Gaulle, French military officer/political leader/writer, once famously said, "The graveyards are full of indispensable men." I think Valérie Perrin writes a most moving tribute to graveyards, its residents, and those who care for it. I could never have imagined just how moved I'd become by a story set in a small French cemetery. Turns out that Violette and I, the book's MC, are members of the same club: a club we were brutally initiated into. It's not a club anyone wants to join. Take Charles de Gaulle, French military officer/political leader/writer, once famously said, "The graveyards are full of indispensable men." I think Valérie Perrin writes a most moving tribute to graveyards, its residents, and those who care for it. I could never have imagined just how moved I'd become by a story set in a small French cemetery. Turns out that Violette and I, the book's MC, are members of the same club: a club we were brutally initiated into. It's not a club anyone wants to join. Take my word for it. Nevertheless, as dark as the story may seem (and it is), it still has the capability to wrap its arms around the reader and deliver an emotional, comforting hug. It took my breath away and forced me to face my own demons. I NEEDED to read this. Relating to Violette in many ways, I understand her motivation to disconnect. I don't want to give much away. This is a profoundly sad story about a woman who's lost in life, already not having much to lose. She clings to what is hers, even if these things cause deep pain; at least they're hers. While tragic and heartbreaking, Perrin's words are filled with beauty and meaning. I can't begin to describe how much I loved every word written. Truly one of those books I didn't want to say goodbye to. Characters and settings that, after introduction, become memorable lifelong friends. If I could only read one book in 2020, I'd be content to end it with Fresh Water for Flowers. I will forever remember it. Adding to my "All-time Favorites" shelf. I can't give it a better compliment than that. I'll also be adding a physical copy to my book collection. I intend to visit this story once a year. Yeah...it IS that good. Most importantly, it reminds me that there IS light at the end of that deep, foreboding tunnel. *E-copy courtesy of NetGalley.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette (Again)

    4.5 stars

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    Violette Toussaint is the caretaker of the cemetery at Brancion-en-Chalon. She lives alone in a small house on the cemetery grounds, a haven for visitors often racked by grief, to whom Violette offers warmth, solace… and tea. Violette’s family are the pets she keeps and her regular colleagues-of-sort – the three gravediggers, Nono, Gaston, and Elvis; the three undertakers, Pierre, Paul, and Jacques (also known as the Lucchini brothers) and Father Cédric Duras, who officiates at most of the funer Violette Toussaint is the caretaker of the cemetery at Brancion-en-Chalon. She lives alone in a small house on the cemetery grounds, a haven for visitors often racked by grief, to whom Violette offers warmth, solace… and tea. Violette’s family are the pets she keeps and her regular colleagues-of-sort – the three gravediggers, Nono, Gaston, and Elvis; the three undertakers, Pierre, Paul, and Jacques (also known as the Lucchini brothers) and Father Cédric Duras, who officiates at most of the funerals in this largely Catholic area. Violette is elegant, suave, sophisticated. But just as her dark “winter” coats often cover colourful “summer” clothing, Violette has a hidden history which has led her, via several winding roads, to this little village in Bourgogne. We learn that Violette has reinvented herself, setting off from a childhood in fostering and surviving a painful marriage before settling down as the lady of the cemetery. The narration, largely in the likeable voice of Violette, alternates between her present experiences and her past life. But then matters start becoming complicated. One day, a police officer named Julien Seul, turns up at Violette’s door. His mother has left instructions that her ashes be laid on the tomb of a distinguished lawyer in the cemetery, revealing, after her death, a passionate clandestine affair. Violette helps Julien to come to terms with this discovery. But Julien’s arrival on the scene also rakes up a tragic mystery – the grief-shaped core of Violette’s past. Antonio D’Orrico, writing in Il Corriere della Sera described Fresh Water for Flowers as the “most beautiful novel in the world”. I am generally loath to heap such unreserved praise on any book, because I’m aware how much depends on the reader’s taste. But I came across a particular passage in this book which sums up what I felt when I finished the novel: I close Irène’s journal with a heavy heart. The way one closes a novel one has fallen in love with. A novel that’s a friend from whom it’s hard to part, because one wants it close by, in arm’s reach. To me, Fresh Water for Flowers is one of those novels. It’s too early to say whether it will prove to be a memorable one and it might soon be replaced in my fickle affections. But, at least for its duration, it made me want to return to its fictional world and ensconce myself between its pages. The various narrative strands, including the rather unexpected introduction of a “mystery story” element around half the way through, engaged my interest. But what I possibly found more engaging is the style, the surprisingly effective mix of pathos and humour, tragedy and hope, laced with more than a dose of romance. The titles of each of the short chapters, evidently inspired by funerary epigraphs, more often than not provide an oblique commentary on the content of the chapter. Perrin is a screenwriter and I can easily imagine the novel and its witty dialogue being turned into a quintessentially French movie, with a central character played by Juliette Binoche or Audrey Tautou, and a supporting cast of bantering, quirky characters. The book even suggests its own soundtrack, with various references to French songs and occasional snatches of Bach and Chopin. It is, in fact, a very “sensual” novel, not just in the sense of being about passion, but because of its assault on the senses – its passages are rich in colours, sounds, flavours, fragrances. This marks Valérie Perrin’s English debut. Hildegarde Serle deserves praise for her translation, which reads effortlessly and musically, and makes one forget that the novel was originally in a very different language.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kriste

    This book is one of five I bought while we were in Paris week ago. I didn’t know the author, but I been told that books that won “Prix des Lecteurs” (Readers price) are always good as well sales assistant confirmed that book is very good. The book title in English would be To change water for the flowers and I am sad that it is still not translated to English, but hopefully it will be soon and more people could enjoy it. It is the story about Violette Toussaint who is 50 years old cemetery-guard i This book is one of five I bought while we were in Paris week ago. I didn’t know the author, but I been told that books that won “Prix des Lecteurs” (Readers price) are always good as well sales assistant confirmed that book is very good. The book title in English would be To change water for the flowers and I am sad that it is still not translated to English, but hopefully it will be soon and more people could enjoy it. It is the story about Violette Toussaint who is 50 years old cemetery-guard in small village in Burgundy. She likes her life and as she calls it her “family” consisting of three gravediggers and priest. Her house is always open to cemetery visitors whatever they want to cry on her shoulder or tell secrets that they haven’t told anyone, she always has coffee or tea or something stronger for everyone and all occasions. Through the book we learn all about Violette’s past life, born under X and not knowing who here parents were, life with her husband and his disappearance, birth and loss of the child. There are more story lines in the book; one is of Philippe Toussaint (Violette’s husband), where we understand better his point of view. There is other love story that we discover as diary entries. But all together they make sense. I think that I would like to recommend this book to people who liked The Elegance of the Hedgehog. And I am definitely going to buy the author’s first book, Les oubliés du dimanche.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Vonda

    What a beautiful, melancholy story! Violette is the cementary caretaker, she had taken on the job with her husband who was a useless, lazy clout. The story entwines around Violette's personal life with her husband leaving her years before and the stories of the departed who are in her cementary. Violette falls in love with a man who is curious as to why his mother wanted to be placed at the grave of a man that wasn't her husband. It is a soft flowing story that carries off the elegance of the Fr What a beautiful, melancholy story! Violette is the cementary caretaker, she had taken on the job with her husband who was a useless, lazy clout. The story entwines around Violette's personal life with her husband leaving her years before and the stories of the departed who are in her cementary. Violette falls in love with a man who is curious as to why his mother wanted to be placed at the grave of a man that wasn't her husband. It is a soft flowing story that carries off the elegance of the French into this translation. Extremely original, a good cozy up weekend read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aga Durka

    Fresh Water for Flowers is one of those stories that will stay with me for a long while. Beautifully written, full of emotions, and packed with great characters, this story captivated me from the beginning. A character driven tale of love, loss, and hope with a mixture of mystery that slowly develops while exploring deepest human emotions, wants, and steps to recovery from the loss of a loved one. And even though this story is heartbreaking at times, I was left with happy and positive feelings a Fresh Water for Flowers is one of those stories that will stay with me for a long while. Beautifully written, full of emotions, and packed with great characters, this story captivated me from the beginning. A character driven tale of love, loss, and hope with a mixture of mystery that slowly develops while exploring deepest human emotions, wants, and steps to recovery from the loss of a loved one. And even though this story is heartbreaking at times, I was left with happy and positive feelings and a quiet contentment after reading its last page. Thank you NetGalley, Europa Editions, and the author for providing me with an ARC copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Debbi

    I can't seem to break my stream of sad books. "Life is but an endless losing of all that one loves"It is a lovely book and well written, but was not exactly what I expected. Laughter, companionship. and occasional tears are words borrowed from the book jacket. Don't be misled, this book is a deep exploration of loss and grief. It is bittersweet and as much as I liked it, it never made me laugh.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    “A mother’s love is a treasure that God gives only once.” “Heartwarming”, “tender”, “tugs on the heartstrings” are some of the descriptions that came with this book, and it was exactly the kind of story I felt I needed at the time to escape into. Also, who doesn’t like some armchair travel to rural France, especially with a setting as intriguing as a small French cemetery? OMG this book! As I sat there, sobbing loudly and with tears and snot pouring down my face, I felt I could never do this story “A mother’s love is a treasure that God gives only once.” “Heartwarming”, “tender”, “tugs on the heartstrings” are some of the descriptions that came with this book, and it was exactly the kind of story I felt I needed at the time to escape into. Also, who doesn’t like some armchair travel to rural France, especially with a setting as intriguing as a small French cemetery? OMG this book! As I sat there, sobbing loudly and with tears and snot pouring down my face, I felt I could never do this story justice with my review. FRESH WATER FOR FLOWERS was both the saddest and the most beautiful book I have read in years, and one that utterly captured my heart and soul. It broke my heart a thousand times over and then comforted me with hope, and Violette’s spirit to keep going, and keep loving. I needed to sit with the story and my own emotions for a while before I could adequately express the way I felt about it. Violette is probably one of the most beautiful and courageous fictional characters I have ever encountered. An orphan growing up in a children’s home, married as a young teen to a much older man and then a teenage mother, she is so starved for love and yet so resilient. She was just such a beautiful soul, and my heart broke for her many times over as she endures one tragedy after another and still doesn’t lose that inner flame that shines out of the book and warmed my soul. And even though Violette was definitely the star of the story, each and every character in this book was compelling and well drawn with all their flaws and human-ness. There are many different threads wrapped up into Violette’s story, and I loved them all! Even Phillippe, Violette’s husband who treated her so badly at times, was compelling in his own right, and I could not hate him, as much as I wanted to. Four full pages of quotes in my reading journal show how much FRESH WATER FOR FLOWERS spoke to me. I can’t adequately describe here how much I loved this book. I haven’t ugly cried whilst reading for a long time, but this story made me wail so loudly that my dog crawled under the bed in fright and I had to take anti-histamines to ease the redness and swelling of my eyes before being able to go to work. As a trigger warning: the author tackles one of life’s most tragic events as a pivotal event of her novel. I don’t want to give spoilers, but if you are anything like me, the sense of foreboding and mounting dread warned me that something terrible was coming. And yet, when I reflect on the book, it filled me with hope, and warmth, and love for the human spirit like only few books can. I can see why FRESH WATER FOR FLOWERS was a number one bestseller in France, and its translated version, which preserved all its original French charm, deserves to rocket to the bestseller list here as well. In summary, FRESH WATER FOR FLOWERS was the type of book that doesn’t come along very often – a story that starts a little flame in the very centre of your heart and turns into a raging inferno of emotion. Despite making me cry, it filled me with love and hope and a sense that these characters will live on in my heart for a long time to come. It was both one of the saddest and most beautiful books I have ever read, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Brilliant! All the stars! Thank you to Edelweiss and Europa for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review. *blog* *facebook* *instagram*

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    Via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ '𝙒𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙙𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙚𝙭𝙥𝙚𝙘𝙩 𝙬𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙗𝙚𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙢𝙚 𝙞𝙛 𝙄 𝙣𝙤 𝙡𝙤𝙣𝙜𝙚𝙧 𝙝𝙚𝙖𝙧 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙥, 𝙞𝙨 𝙞𝙩 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙡𝙞𝙛𝙚 𝙤𝙧 𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩’𝙨 𝙜𝙤𝙞𝙣𝙜, 𝙄 𝙙𝙤𝙣’𝙩 𝙠𝙣𝙤𝙬.' Violette Toussaint, once a level-crossing keeper, now works and lives as a cemetery keeper in a small town in Bourgogne, France. Spending her days observing mourners at funerals, familiar with the regulars visiting their loved ones graves, her life is about routine but not without feeling, even if her job requires her to be un Via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ '𝙒𝙝𝙖𝙩 𝙙𝙤 𝙮𝙤𝙪 𝙚𝙭𝙥𝙚𝙘𝙩 𝙬𝙞𝙡𝙡 𝙗𝙚𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙢𝙚 𝙞𝙛 𝙄 𝙣𝙤 𝙡𝙤𝙣𝙜𝙚𝙧 𝙝𝙚𝙖𝙧 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙥, 𝙞𝙨 𝙞𝙩 𝙮𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙡𝙞𝙛𝙚 𝙤𝙧 𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙖𝙩’𝙨 𝙜𝙤𝙞𝙣𝙜, 𝙄 𝙙𝙤𝙣’𝙩 𝙠𝙣𝙤𝙬.' Violette Toussaint, once a level-crossing keeper, now works and lives as a cemetery keeper in a small town in Bourgogne, France. Spending her days observing mourners at funerals, familiar with the regulars visiting their loved ones graves, her life is about routine but not without feeling, even if her job requires her to be unaffected. She understands their nuances of grief as well as she can imagine how her departed neighbors feel, no longer among the living, having endured her own "period of death" while going through the motions of her last job, her abandoned life. Working alongside several unconventional men who keep her company and stave off loneliness are the 3 graveside diggers (Nano "everything amuses him", the clumsy Gaston and Elvis, who croons the late great singer's songs) the three undertakers (the Luccini brothers) and Father Cedric Duras. Violette is not just a confidant to the many wanderers in the cemetery but a woman who even visits the graves of the long forgotten dead, knowing one day we too will no longer even be a memory. It's been twenty years since she took on the job, minus her husband who was meant to join her and instead became a "disappearance of concern". Tending to the cemetery in the countryside demands discretion and somber attire yet when the gates are closed she is free to dress in light, colorful clothes, indulging herself alone. Enjoying her tea one morning before she has opened the gates there comes a knocking on the street side door of her lodgings. It is Detective Julien Sole, whose mother Irene Fayolle's last wishes were to have her ashes placed on a man's gravesite. The problem is, the man is a stranger to her son Julien, making his mother's last request a complete mystery. The man is also not his father, Irene's husband. His quest for answers pulls Violette in closer than she imagined, or wanted. Life has a way of finding us, even in a cemetery.  Memories, loss, fresh starts, distorted pasts, the untold story of a woman's greatest grief, the paths and diversions our hearts take in love all unfold in Valérie Perrin's novel. When I first started reading I thought it would simply be the eye of a woman witnessing funerals, providing the comfort sometimes only a stranger can give, lending aid where needed to mourners and then shrinking into the background. Instead, this novel takes off when Violette's past is resurrected. The greatest mystery may be what happened to her own husband and why he fled the scene of their love. Is it true some stones are better left unturned? Love is a different creature, depending on who it's spent on. When we're young love often leads us into a fun-house, where what we see and feel is distorted and the outcome is brutal disillusionment. How do others weaken our character by their suffocating care and attention? What happens when there is an imbalance? Worse, when the purest love is taken from us, can we ever recover? It's an emotional ride that drives home the fact that the cruel hand of fate can make monsters of us. Grief can bury you, make you a stranger to yourself and others but just as easily it can lead to reinvention, rebirth. Are you a passenger in life, the driver or absent altogether? Live long enough, you taste death in one form or another- how do you go on living in the aftermath of such pains? At times the stories that overlap and merge could be distracting but the tale is tied up into a strong ending reminding us we are destined to cross paths with some people, even if it takes years to see the bigger picture. Publication Date: July 7, 2020 Europa Editions 

  18. 5 out of 5

    Bookread2day

    What I liked about this book is that is stretched the limits to an unusual gripping read. Violette Toussaint got off to a bad start, she wa given away at birth and was named Violette and the same midwife gave her Charles for her surname. In 1997 Violette and her husband lost their jobs. Violette finds a job advertising for a Cemetery keeper, at Brancion-en-Chalon. By becoming a cemetery keepers they would have a salary and site accommodation and no expenses. They would have nothing to do as they What I liked about this book is that is stretched the limits to an unusual gripping read. Violette Toussaint got off to a bad start, she wa given away at birth and was named Violette and the same midwife gave her Charles for her surname. In 1997 Violette and her husband lost their jobs. Violette finds a job advertising for a Cemetery keeper, at Brancion-en-Chalon. By becoming a cemetery keepers they would have a salary and site accommodation and no expenses. They would have nothing to do as they already had three gravediggers Nano, Elvis and Gaston, and three undertakers the Lucchini brothers Pierre, Paul, and Jacques and Father Cedric Duras. Violette keeps the register she records all burials and exhumations. Her cemetery is very beautiful. The avenues are lined with centenarian linden trees. Violette sells potted plants and when they are no longer worth selling she gives them to the abandoned graves. Violette knows everybody even the locals who don't yet have any one dead at her cemetery. All of them have passed through at least once for the burial of a friend or a neighbour or a colleague's mother. I recommend this book as it is without question a really good usual read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    SueLucie

    In the notes about the author, Valerie Perrin is described as a screenwriter and photographer and that is exactly how this novel comes across - as a film, brimming with beautifully composed shots, especially amongst the gravestones. I enjoyed the atmosphere she conjures of an oasis of calm in a tough world. The main themes of the story are grief, regret, misunderstanding and emotional reticence in the lives of the main characters, highlighted by some moving epitaphs from the cemetery at the begi In the notes about the author, Valerie Perrin is described as a screenwriter and photographer and that is exactly how this novel comes across - as a film, brimming with beautifully composed shots, especially amongst the gravestones. I enjoyed the atmosphere she conjures of an oasis of calm in a tough world. The main themes of the story are grief, regret, misunderstanding and emotional reticence in the lives of the main characters, highlighted by some moving epitaphs from the cemetery at the beginning of each chapter. Some lovely writing. As an example, I particularly liked this passage: You can make out their little bodies, top to tail, under the tangled sheets and blankets. Their dark hair on the two white pillows, like a piece of the countryside sticking out, a little path smelling of hazelnut. Running your fingers through a child’s hair is like walking on the dead leaves in a forest at the start of spring. The French flavour appealed to me - who knew they ate so many fried eggs? Part mystery, part romance, the story progresses very slowly over very many pages to a perfectly satisfactory ending. Recommended. With thanks to Europa Editions via NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Penny (Literary Hoarders)

    I really enjoyed it - was engrossed the whole time. There is A Lot going on in here though. There are a number of other stories that branch out from Violette's but I didn't mind any of it one bit. There is even a little bit of a mystery inside. Even though there is a lot going on in here it worked really for me. I really, really liked Violette. She has quite a story to tell and quite a life she lived.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Katya

    I’m in love with this book!!! I rarely ever reread books. There are so many I haven’t read yet and so little time, but I know I will come back to this one time and time again. Read in Russian.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Andy Weston

    Violette Toussaint is a cemetery keeper in Brancion-en-Chalon, a job she longed for and feels extremely proud to have. Perrin's captivating and tender novel is the story of why Violette ambitions lay amongst the dead, a job that most people would avoid. She was an orphan who just about managed a chaotic childhood, to marry while still a teenager, for her and her husband, Phillipe, to become level-crossing managers; but Phillipe cheats on her, and the railways become automated. The story fluctuat Violette Toussaint is a cemetery keeper in Brancion-en-Chalon, a job she longed for and feels extremely proud to have. Perrin's captivating and tender novel is the story of why Violette ambitions lay amongst the dead, a job that most people would avoid. She was an orphan who just about managed a chaotic childhood, to marry while still a teenager, for her and her husband, Phillipe, to become level-crossing managers; but Phillipe cheats on her, and the railways become automated. The story fluctuates between what on the surface are extremes with elegance. It is melancholic and yet ebullient, one minute laughter another despair; its unpredictable turns emerge from characters either eccentric or dead; calamities result in opportunities. But at its heart this is a mystery novel. For once at least, media reviews stop short of any summary that could act as a spoiler; but if you intend reading this, skip them anyway. What may on the surface of it appear gloomy and morose, in Perrin's hands is an appealing indulgence in nature, food and drink, and above all, friends.

  23. 4 out of 5

    oritty: books and i (tilayov)

    This is such an amazing book It is moving. I had tears in my eye many times while reading it. I really identified with Violette. I felt her pain' her struggles' her amazement when she finds people who surprise her' her courage to deal with the truth and her journey to a new and stronger self It is filled with love – to people, to their flues, to healing after lost and to the understanding that many times people are more complexed than we think they are and that if we take the time and patienc This is such an amazing book It is moving. I had tears in my eye many times while reading it. I really identified with Violette. I felt her pain' her struggles' her amazement when she finds people who surprise her' her courage to deal with the truth and her journey to a new and stronger self It is filled with love – to people, to their flues, to healing after lost and to the understanding that many times people are more complexed than we think they are and that if we take the time and patience' we find the real person under all those layers. We deal with serious issued sometimes and lost of dear ones are the worst, even if they just leave, even if it is their love or presence we miss and more so in the case of tragedies but we need to give ourselves credit, time to heal and a chance to rise again a whole person.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Katie Mac

    I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The only way I can describe this book is that it's an epic. No, not "epic" (though it is certainly that), but AN epic of Homerian proportions that delves deeply and into the lives of its characters as opposed to focusing only on its main character (Violette, the cemetery keeper) the entire time. It is contemporary fiction, a murder mystery, a thriller, a tragedy, and a romance all rolled into one. It is daunting to r I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The only way I can describe this book is that it's an epic. No, not "epic" (though it is certainly that), but AN epic of Homerian proportions that delves deeply and into the lives of its characters as opposed to focusing only on its main character (Violette, the cemetery keeper) the entire time. It is contemporary fiction, a murder mystery, a thriller, a tragedy, and a romance all rolled into one. It is daunting to read, with more than 400 densely packed pages in the physical book, but it is worth it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mara

    An intriguing puzzle, a heroine you root for, a poetic writing. My only nit that around 60% my enjoyment dipped a bit, probably for the sudden change of genre. From light comedy to tragedy. But otherwise the great book I was told to expect.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I completely loved this quiet, sad, contemplative, gorgeously written book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    I loved every minute of this book despite it's sadness. The characters were beautifully human and the language was painfully accurate. If you like Elena Ferrante, you will love this book! "Days became fused, one to the next. Like a train whose carriages my memory can't distinguish anymore. All that is left is the memory of the journey. " "It's a luxury to be the owner of one's time. I think it's one of the greatest luxuries humans can afford themselves. " "I spoke to her as if we were continuing a I loved every minute of this book despite it's sadness. The characters were beautifully human and the language was painfully accurate. If you like Elena Ferrante, you will love this book! "Days became fused, one to the next. Like a train whose carriages my memory can't distinguish anymore. All that is left is the memory of the journey. " "It's a luxury to be the owner of one's time. I think it's one of the greatest luxuries humans can afford themselves. " "I spoke to her as if we were continuing a conversation begun a very long time ago. " "Learning to read is like learning to swim. Once you've learnt the arm movements, and got over the fear of drowning." "It's when living through what I'm living through right now that you know everything's fine, that nothing's serious, that human beings have an extraordinary ability to rebuild themselves, to cauterize themselves, as if they had several layers of skin, one on top of the other. Lives one on top of the other. Other lives in store. That the business of forgetting has no limits." "Love is when you meet someone who gives you news about yourself." "We think that death is an absence, when in fact it's a secret presence." "You're no longer where you were, but you're everywhere that I am." "The darkness has to intensify for the first star to appear." "Words left unspoken go off to scream deep inside us."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    I just finished reading it and it's so beautiful. I read the last pages with tears in my eyes, because it's so terrible and so beautiful at the same time. It starts out as a rather depressing portrait of Violette, a young woman who marries a man who doesn't value her at all. As the story progresses, we find out more about her husband and start to understand how he came to be like that. I don't want to give anything away, but I can't recommend this book enough. The storylines, the subtle humour, th I just finished reading it and it's so beautiful. I read the last pages with tears in my eyes, because it's so terrible and so beautiful at the same time. It starts out as a rather depressing portrait of Violette, a young woman who marries a man who doesn't value her at all. As the story progresses, we find out more about her husband and start to understand how he came to be like that. I don't want to give anything away, but I can't recommend this book enough. The storylines, the subtle humour, the beautiful sentences. Unfortunately there is no English or Dutch translation yet. The English translation will appear in 2020.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Annette Geiss

    Beautifully written. Poetically penned. Valerie Perrin is an author to keep on your radar. The interwoven characters and their lives, are described elegantly. It’s a tragic yet hopeful epilogue. Finishing the book left me bereft. “There’s something stronger than death, and that’s the presence of those absent in the memory of the living.” A resounding theme throughout the novel. Thank you Netgalley and Europa Editions for the opportunity to read and review this wonderful ARC.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Diane Merritt

    What a magical book. Absolutely loved this and all the people in it. I started this and at first wasn't sure but knew it was more my mood do I put it aside and came to it. So glad I did as this is such a great rest! Magical. Thanks to the publisher and net galley for an early release of this book.

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