Book Review: A French Wedding, by Hannah Tunnicliffe

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_a_french_weddingTo 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
ISBN 9781743548103

 

Book Review: Season of Salt and Honey, by Hannah Tunnicliffe

cv_season_of_salt_and_honeyAvailable in bookstores nationwide.

The author of this book, Hannah Tunnicliffe is a New Zealander, but has lived all over the world. She currently lives in New Zealand and is the founder and co-author of a blog called Fork and Fiction, which encompasses her two loves – books and food. This is Hannah’s second novel, her first being The Colour of Tea.

Okay this is a love story and follows that trope for part of the book, but it also involves an Italian family and recipes for gorgeous Italian food. I was salivating while reading the recipes. Having travelled through Italy, sampling food and wine wherever we went, I really enjoyed this book. It is light, sad in places and funny.

The heroine in this story goes by the name of Francesca (Frankie) Caputo. Frankie is the eldest daughter of Italian parents who immigrated to the United States. Her sister Bella (Isabella) is estranged from the family. Frankie’s parents, being Italian, of course means a rather large extended family; aunts, uncles and cousins. They at times seem interfering and just far too intrusive with family gatherings always being incredibly noisy, to the point where you can’t hear yourself think and lots of lovingly prepared food.Frankie meets the boy of her dreams – Alex Gardner. They plan to marry and live happily ever after, but a freak accident while surfing changes these plans and throws Frankie’s life into turmoil.

The story continues with Frankie sad, grieving and not coping with friends and family’s well intentioned “help”, and driving out to Alex’s favourite place to escape – an abandoned cabin owned by the Gardner family. Her neighbours are curious about her and slowly she starts to recover becoming part of the local community. She discovers things about herself that she wasn’t aware of before. Frankie becomes stronger, dealing with situations that before she found difficult.

I found myself hooked on this book to the point that I couldn’t put it down. Would I recommend this book? Well yes, because it’s a bit of escapism, with a nip or two of sadness saving itself from any danger of similarity to other stories, with wonderful colourful characters and of course, mouth-watering recipes.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Season of Salt and Honey 
by Hannah Tunnicliffe
Published by Macmillan
ISBN 9781742612416