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A rural French setting (“lush fields and olive groves of Southern France”) and a mysterious nurse as a main character made this book an irresistible combination for me – and it turned out to be one of my favourite reads of 2020!
A few pages into the story I already knew that this book would be everything I had hoped for. Charming, quaint, wonderfully observed and with a gorgeous rural French setting, it immediately drew me into its world. Marguerite was such a relatable, enigmatic character – I felt her loneliness, her guilt, her attempts to escape into sleep to avoid the darkness that threatens to take her over. The dynamics between her and Jerome, the lonely old dying man she is looking after, were well presented, as was the small town’s prejudices against the newcomer. Being young and beautiful and yet choosing a quiet, lonely life as the private nurse for an old tyrant immediately raises suspicions among the townsfolk. Except for Henri, who recognise her loneliness as the same sort of void he feels in his own heart. The tender friendship developing between these two characters touched me deeply, and I wanted so much for them to be able to shed their past burdens and move on into a bright, happy future.
There are a lot of themes in this book that prompted reflection, and not only because I too have cared for dying people and pondered some of the questions and dilemmas that Marguerite and Henri face. Each character, no matter how peripheral to the plot, added another layer to the story, until it shimmered as rich and golden as the Southern French sun. And yet there was a shadow side, a constant sense of foreboding, that kept me reading late into the night.
MARGUERITE was a beautifully written, brilliantly observed, atmospheric, raw and thought provoking story about two lonely people that deeply touched my heart and is definitely among my favourite books of 2020. Days after turning the last page I still found myself reflecting on this melancholic and yet hopeful story and the many topics it touched on. Aren’t those the best kind of books?