From the blurb:
CC is trapped by a job she no longer loves in an unfriendly city. So when her new boyfriend decides it’s time to sell up and move to the South of France, she decides in seconds to change her life. After all, who wouldn’t pick an azure sea, aperitifs and sunshine over a dreary commute and a rainy climate?
She hadn’t expected a tumbledown farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Or a motley assortment of surly builders, eccentric farmers and a resentful, terrifying neighbour – who happens to be her boyfriend’s aunt.
Suddenly, CC’s dream of a place in the sun is looking more like a nightmare. Does she have the courage to stick it out, and make a home of her French house?
This book is the second novel with the lead protagonist CC. But don’t be concerned if you have not read the first, because with Nick’s wonderful way of writing, this story happily stands alone and you will not be left behind! You will soon get to know the lovely CC, who wants nothing more than to be happy with a long-term boyfriend/partner (having already had a disastrous stab at marriage earlier on in life) and to start a family. So when her boyfriend of a couple of months, Victor, inherits a dilapidated farmhouse in the south of France and decides to quit London to go out and rebuild the house and live his dream life in the country, CC makes the big decision to go with him. Cue a very bumpy journey with mad, witch-like neighbours, building disasters, plots to scare CC away and freezing-cold water issues.
Told purely from CC’s point of view, Nick Alexander has a fabulous way of describing CC’s thoughts and emotions that really makes you feel like she is your best friend and you are discussing her life over a cup of tea or a bottle of local French wine:
When I was single – which went on for a very long time – I remember having wished for a man who was capable of sharing the simple pleasures of life with me. I remember imagining a virtual boyfriend lying on the lawn with me, watching ants dragging breadcrumbs through the jungle of blades – a childhood memory, no doubt. Watching the sparkle and melt of the frost until the smell of coffee joins the buttery burn of the croissants is close enough for me.
Everything about him is different in French, from the timbre of his voice to his body language, to the way he moves his hands; it’s like watching a stranger, which is a little unnerving, but also rather exciting. It’s like having two boyfriends for the price of one.
That Monday night, spent eating pizza amid a sea of boxes, turns out, unexpectedly, to be a wonderful moment of friendship, the kind of moment in fact that you truly never forget. It’s the type of scene that, hopefully, when you get to the end of your life, flashes back past you.
But he also has a lovely way of describing some wonderful and poignant moments that make you smile and feel warm inside:
Just as I was describing Orion, with Victor’s head squashed against mine so that I can point out the individual stars, I am overcome by a deep sense of belonging, an overpowering and rare sensation of being in exactly the right place at the right time within this vast universe, and, for once, of being with the right person too. It hits me unexpectedly just how improbable this is in this infinite space, how stunningly lucky we are to have bumped into each other, and the realisation is so moving, so humbling, that my voice cracks and my vision blurs, and I have to wipe away an unexpected tear before I can continue stargazing.
‘You and me in the middle of all this,’ Victor whispers, and I know that he is feeling it too.
The book is mainly set in the picturesque south of France, although the farmhouse that CC finds herself rebuilding is not the lovely or quaint rural idyll she imagined. She is separated from her friends and family, who are all back in London, and so the only person she has to rely on in France is Victor. That said, there are a host of weird and wonderful characters in this book – from the somewhat scary aunt and her weird companion living on the adjacent land, to CC’s fabulous best friends in London and her eccentric but loveable mother.
True to genre, there is a suitably happy ending for CC and Victor, although it is not clear where they are going to end up living – another book perhaps?
The reason I chose the book was for the setting and the focus on renovation, because I expected the story to appeal to me, given that my husband and I followed the same path: renovating a mas near St Tropez. I especially loved this element of the book, and naturally I completely bought into the idyllic lifestyle CC and Victor are looking to create, and championed their cause throughout. It’s worth it; I know!
I really enjoyed this story, with its lovely descriptions and often funny situations. It is a lovely, light-hearted, meandering read, with a heart-warming message that love is worth every bit of the fight.
The French House is available now from Amazon; click on the book cover below to visit the store.