Saturday 11 September 2021

Book Review: The French Gift by Kirsty Manning

The French Gift
Kirsty Manning
A story of female friendship, longing and sacrifice.
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication date: 30th March 2021
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 328
RRP: $32.99
Format read: Paperback (uncorrected proof)
Source: Courtesy of the publisher
About the book
A forgotten manuscript that threatens to unravel the past…

Fresne Prison, 1940: A former maid at a luxury villa on the Riviera, Margot Bisset finds herself in a prison cell with writer and French Resistance fighter Joséphine Murant. Together, they are transferred to a work camp in Germany for four years, where the secrets they share will bind them for generations to come.
Contemporary Paris: Evie Black lives in Paris with her teenage son, Hugo, above her botanical bookshop, La Maison Rustique. Life would be so sweet if only Evie were not mourning the great love of her life.

When a letter arrives regarding the legacy of her husband’s great-aunt, Joséphine Murant, Evie clutches at an opportunity to spend one last magical summer with her son. They travel together to Joséphine’s house, now theirs, on the Côte d’Azur. Here, Evie unravels the official story of this famous novelist, and the truth of a murder a lifetime ago.
My review
The French Gift is an interesting historical fiction narrated over multiple time lines.
1940's Paris: a friendship is formed when Margot Bisset, a maid, accused of murder and Josephine Murant, trialed as a Resistance fighter, share a cell in a French prison.
When Paris falls to the Germans the women are sent to a German work camp and are forced to work endless hours in a factory with horrific conditions. Josephine is charming, witty and defiant and she infuses Margot with her fire and determination.
Present day Paris: Evie Black and her teenaged son Hugo, mourning the death of their beloved husband and father, agree to assist in the collection of information and artifacts to go into an exhibition to honour the legacy of Josephine Murant, her husband's great aunt, who had become an accomplished crime writer. There are also rumours of an unpublished manuscript which has Evie searching the villa.
Kirsty Manning has written a compelling story of friendship, perseverance and acts of kindness. The chapters on the German rayon factory were heartbreaking and were written with great reverence for the women that endured these horrific conditions.
I enjoyed the added mysteries of the false murder charge, the search for the manuscript and the added information and secrets that were unearthed during the assembly of the exhibition.
The multiple time line format didn't quite work for me with the dates continually jumping around. I would have preferred two straight time lines.
I did like that Kirsty Manning has come up with a fresh idea for a novel set during WWII and I was completely engrossed in the narrative. The mention of French cuisine and wines helped to give an overarching sense of place.
The French Gift with its clever twists is sure to please historical fiction fans.
My rating   4 / 5  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author
Kirsty Manning grew up in northern New South Wales 
A country girl with wanderlust, her travels and studies have taken her through most of Europe, the east and west coasts of the United States and pockets of Asia. Kirsty's first novel was the enchanting Midsummer Garden, published in 2017. Her second book, The Jade Lily, was published in 2018, and her third The Lost Jewels, in 2020. Kirsty is a partner in the award winning Melbourne wine bar Bellota, and the Prince Wine Store in Sydney and Melbourne. She lives in Melbourne, Victoria.
Challenges Entered: Australian Women Writers Challenge AWW2021
                                   Aussie Author Challenge #Aussieauthor21
                                   Historical Fiction Challenge 


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