To celebrate his 40th birthday, rock star Max arranges a big weekend with his closest friends. Although they don’t see each other as much these days, they remain as close knit as they were when they met back at art college in the 90s.
They arrive at his fabulous house in France, eager to enjoy a weekend of reconnecting and reminiscing the glory days of their youth. Ever the rock star – cocky, wild and leader of the gang and struggling with addiction, Max may still have the girls swarming around him, but only one has ever had his heart. His kindred spirit, Helen. Troubled and wild like him, she arrives with her half-sister Soleil, who does not fall for Max’s rock n roll charm.
Nina and Lars, two of the gang who paired up, arrive with their teenage daughter Sophie. Tensions between mother and daughter are clear. Rosie arrives without her three sons, but with husband Hugo. A surgeon, he is conservative and safe, everything Rosie thought she wanted. Hugo most definitely does not fit in with this bohemian crowd. The final member of the gang is Eddie, who arrives with Beth, his latest, younger girlfriend. Also at the house for the weekend is local villager Juliette, employed by Max as his cook/housekeeper. Once a celebrated rising chef and owner of a popular restaurant in Paris, Juliette has returned to the village to heal.
Much of the story is told from Juliette’s view point as she observes the various interactions between the group. She notices the strained exchanges between husband and wife, the quiet angst of the teenager and the concern of friends for one another. As she serves up one glorious feast after another, along with some advice, she finds herself drawn into the dynamics of the group and becomes part of the team. Other pieces of the tale are delivered in flashbacks, both from Max and Juliette, and this worked well to reveal more about the characters current situations.
Throughout the weekend, events begin to escalate, leading them all towards truths some would have preferred kept hidden but which need to be acknowledged and faced. A sudden dash to Paris took both the characters and myself by surprise; leading to a refreshing scenario that I had not seen coming.
The tale ends with a wedding a year later, everyone again gathers at Max’s house. We revisit Juliette, now in her happy place as owner of the village bakery and doing well. As for who is getting married, again a nice turn that I didn’t see coming, although the clues were in place.
This is a tale of a weekend of change, of reflection and facing truths. An enjoyable read for the personalities and lives contained within and the fun moments of reminiscing (anyone who was a teen in the 90s will love the familiar music referenced).
Reviewed by Vanessa Hatley-Owen
A French Wedding
by Hannah Tunnicliffe
Published by Macmillan, 2016