I closed my eyes as I tried to pick apart every flavour, because nothing had ever tasted so good before. It was like tasting for the first time. Like discovering colour . . .
It is 1919 and the war is over, but for Emeline Vane the cold Norfolk fens only are haunted by memories of those she has lost. In a moment of grief, she recklessly boards a train and runs from it all.
Her journey leads her far away, to a tiny seaside village in the South of France. Taken in by cafe owner Maman and her twenty-year-old son, Emeline discovers a world completely new to her: of oranges, olives and wild herbs, the raw, rich tastes of the land.
But when a love affair develops, as passionate as the flavours of the village, secrets from home begin blowing in on the sea wides. Fifty years later, a young solictor on his first case finds Emeline’s diary, and begins to trace a story of betrayal, love and bittersweet secrets that will send him on a journey to discover the truth… (From Goodreads.com)
Published 23rd March 2017 (Ebook)/ 15th June (paperback) by Transworld UK
Dual time narratives are one of my favourite plot devices going. I love the alternating chapters, skipping between one era to the other and tying both times together. So when I read the synopsis for Where The Wild Cherries Grow, I knew this was going to be a book for me.
In 1919 Emmeline faces an uncertain future, following the successive loss of her brothers to war and her Mother to heartbreak. Alone in the imposing family mansion, she’s vulnerable to her unscrupulous uncle and his vision for the ancestral home. When faced with an alarming and terrifying realisation, she makes a spontaneous bid for freedom across France. Fifty years later and solicitor, Bill Perch, embarks on his first case. Young and eager to please, his first case seems straightforward enough. But when he comes across a diary, written fifty years ago, he becomes more and more intrigued and connected, until he must confront a moral dilemma, leading him on a journey of his own.
What I loved about this book was how both Emmeline and Bill’s chapters captivated me and complimented each other. They both begin in situations of suffocating formality, baring the pressure of the expectations of others and being stifled. Emmeline is trapped by her position as a young lady in 1919 and society’s expectations which are imposed on her. Without any family left, she can’t support herself or make choices about the future of her family home. Bill may initially seem to have the world at his feet, but he’s also stifled by life and the expectations of his parents, his girlfriend and the monotony of his professional life in a claustrophobic city. As the chapters alternated, I could see the journey both character went on to individual freedom, and feel the development of both as they surged towards new beginnings. Usually, in this type of narrative, I favour one perspective or era more than the other. In Where The Wild Cherries Grow I found both voices equally as enjoyable, making this book flow beautifully, intertwining both Emmeline and Bill’s stories effortlessly.
Laura Madeleine has a beautiful descriptive prose, which transports the reader to the times and places of this book. The smells, the sounds, the sights…all brought alive in wonderful, multi-coloured vividness. And the food….oh the food! My mouth watered as I read about the sumptuous recipes. I could almost taste them. I wanted nothing more than to be in a beautiful coastal village in the Mediterranean, eating fresh and delicious food once I’d finished reading. But Laura’s stunningly descriptive prose extends to the unsaid and unseen too. The love affair between Emmeline and Aaro was intense and breathtaking. Impressive as Aaro is deaf and has no speech, and so conveying his feelings relies on the author’s poetic turn of phrase and tender and intricate detailing of a look or a touch.
I adored this book, and was fully immersed in it as I read. Not only did the intrigue of Emmeline’s secrets keep me glued, but the feeling of truly being transported to another place had me transfixed and I felt almost to sad to have ended it. For quite a short book, there’s a lot packed in and I found myself turning the pages effortlessly and enjoying every single mouthwatering word. This is the first book I’ve read by Laura Madeleine, but it won’t be the last and I highly recommend this book for those times when you have a few hours to spare and just want to be carried away on a beautiful story.
(I read an advanced readers copy supplied by the publisher)