The Love Season

( 72 )


It’s a hot August Saturday on Nantucket Island. Over the course of the next 24 hours, two lives will be transformed forever.

Marguerite Beale, former chef of culinary hot spot Les Parapluies, has been out of the public eye for over a decade. This all changes with a phone call from Marguerite’s goddaughter, Renata Knox. Marguerite has not seen Renata since the death of Renata’s mother, Candace Harris Knox, fourteen years earlier. And now that Renata is on Nantucket visiting the ...

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It’s a hot August Saturday on Nantucket Island. Over the course of the next 24 hours, two lives will be transformed forever.

Marguerite Beale, former chef of culinary hot spot Les Parapluies, has been out of the public eye for over a decade. This all changes with a phone call from Marguerite’s goddaughter, Renata Knox. Marguerite has not seen Renata since the death of Renata’s mother, Candace Harris Knox, fourteen years earlier. And now that Renata is on Nantucket visiting the family of her new fiancé, she takes the opportunity, against her father’s wishes, to contact Marguerite in hopes of learning the story of her mother’s life -- and death. But the events of the day spiral hopelessly out of control for both women, and nothing ends up as planned.

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Editorial Reviews

Hilderbrand serves up a mouth watering menu, keeps the Veuve Clicquot flowing and tops it all with a dollop of mystery that will have even drowsy sunbathers turning pages until the very satisfying end. (Four-Star Review)
Publishers Weekly
Hilderbrand's fifth book is a fulfilling tale of familial excavation and self-exploration. Marguerite is a lonely chef on Nantucket Island who hasn't cooked for anyone since she sold her restaurant 14 years ago, following the death of her best friend Candace and her own brief stint in a psychiatric hospital. A quirky, endearingly insecure recluse, Marguerite is startled from her solitude by a late-night phone call from Renata Knox, whose question, "Aunt Daisy?" sends Marguerite scrambling to come to terms with her past. Nineteen-year-old Renata is Candace's daughter and Marguerite's estranged goddaughter, visiting the island with her wealthy fiance. The novel takes place over the day Marguerite spends preparing a meal to welcome Renata, whose own problems include an overbearing mother-in-law-to-be and an incomplete sense of her own mother. Desperate for nurturing and guidance, Renata turns to Marguerite, the woman who knew her mother best-and whom Renata has been forbidden to see most of her life. The story is crafted as expertly as Marguerite's dishes, seasoned with well-measured flashbacks and convincing details of island life and the restaurant business. It's a refreshing, resonant summertime treat. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Here's a classic beach book with a summer locale (Nantucket), a sanctified dead mother, a child searching out the mysteries of her past, impossibly attractive and/or wealthy cast members, and some love and sex thrown into the mix. Renata is just 19, lovely and mostly innocent, but, impetuously, she has become engaged to Cade, a preppy child of Nantucket, and so they travel there to meet his rich parents. Over the course of one (very long) day, she arranges to meet her godmother, whose involvement in her mother's death when she was a tot has caused her father to forbid Renata from ever meeting her. Godmother Marguerite had a sumptuous restaurant on the island that was abruptly closed when Renata's mother was struck and killed by a drunk driver while jogging, and that story is very slowly revealed in flashbacks. A good page-turner that doesn't involve too much effort on the part of the reader.-Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In Hilderbrand's fifth Nantucket novel (The Blue Bistro, 2005, etc.), a vacationing college student arranges to meet with her mysterious godmother, a former restaurateur of renown, to learn more about her dead mother. Despite ambivalence, 19-year-old Columbia sophomore Renata has become engaged to Cade. While visiting his wealthy family at their Nantucket summer home, she calls her godmother Marguerite and arranges to have dinner. Renata wants to know more about her mother Candace, who died on the island 14 years earlier. Renata does not realize that Marguerite was so overcome by guilt and despair after Candace's death that she had a psychotic break, sold her very successful restaurant and has been living for years as an island recluse. The novel follows Renata and Marguerite's lives hour by hour throughout the day leading up to the dinner Marguerite prepares for them. While shopping for the meal, Marguerite visits key people from her past who force her to relive what happened years earlier: how she met her long-time, part-time lover Porter, and through him his half-sister Candace, who became her dearest friend; how Candace fell in love and married Dan, owner of the Beach Club; how they had Renata and moved away; how in a moment of despair after Porter's final rejection, Marguerite declared her love for Candace; how shortly thereafter Candace was hit by a drunk driver while jogging. Meanwhile, Renata is struggling against Cade's insufferable mother and against her own attraction to the handsome houseboy. She calls her father to announce her engagement, subconsciously knowing Dan will come to the rescue. He does, but not before Renata has come face to face with near tragedy and run away toMarguerite, leaving Cade's engagement ring behind. Dan, Marguerite and Renata finally reunite, truths are told and old wounds healed. Less chick-lit beach read than old-fashioned Joan Crawford tearjerker.
From the Publisher
"Hilderbrand…serves up a mouth-watering menu, keeps the Veuve Clicquot flowing and tops it all with a dollop of mystery that will have even drowsy sunbathers turning pages until the very satisfying end."—People (4 stars)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312369699
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 234,520
  • Product dimensions: 5.68 (w) x 8.29 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hilderbrand is the author of The Island, Nantucket Nights, Summer People and The Blue Bistro, among others. She grew up in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, and is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she was a teaching/writing fellow. Her short fiction has appeared in Seventeen, The Massachusetts Review, and The Colorado Review. She lives with her husband, Chip Cunningham, and their two sons in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

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Read an Excerpt

The Love Season

By Hilderbrand, Elin

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2006 Hilderbrand, Elin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0312322305

Chapter One

August 19, 2006 • 6:30 a.m.

Marguerite didn't know where to start.

Each and every summer evening for nearly twenty years, she had cooked for a restaurant full of people, yet here she was in her own kitchen on a crystalline morning with a seemingly simple mission--dinner for two that evening at seven thirty--and she didn't know where to start. Her mind spun like the pedals of a bicycle without any brakes. Candace coming here, after all these years. Immediately Marguerite corrected herself. Not Candace. Candace was dead. Renata was coming tonight. The baby.

Marguerite's hands quivered as she brought her coffee mug to her lips. The grandfather clock chimed just as it had every fifteen minutes of its distinguished life--but this time, the sound startled Marguerite. She pictured a monkey inside, with two small cymbals and a voice screeching, Marguerite! Earth to Marguerite!

Marguerite chuckled. I am an old bat, she thought. I'll start by writing a list.

The phone call had come at eleven o'clock the night before. Marguerite was in bed, reading Hemingway. Whereas once Marguerite had been obsessed with food--with heirloom tomatoes and lamb shanks and farmhouse cheeses, and fish still flopping on the counter,and eggs and chocolate and black truffles and foie gras and rare white nectarines--now the only thing that gave her genuine pleasure was reading. The people of Nantucket wondered--oh yes, she knew they wondered--what Marguerite did all day, hermited in her house on Quince Street, secreted away from the eyes of the curious. Although there was always something--the laundry, the garden, the articles for the newspaper in Calgary (deadline every other Friday)--the answer was: reading. Marguerite had three books going at any one time. That was the chef in her, the proverbial more-than-one-pot-on-the-stove. She read contemporary fiction in the mornings, though she was very picky. She liked Philip Roth, Penelope Lively, as a rule no one under the age of fifty, for what could they possibly have to say about the world that Marguerite hadn't already learned? In the afternoons, she enriched herself with biographies or books of European history, if they weren't too dense. Her evenings were reserved for the classics, and when the phone rang the night before Marguerite had been reading Hemingway. Hemingway was the perfect choice for late at night because his sentences were clear and easy to understand, though Marguerite stopped every few pages and asked herself, Is that all he means? Might he mean something else? This insecurity was a result of attending the Culinary Institute instead of a proper university--and all those years with Porter didn't help. An education makes you good company for yourself, Porter had liked to tell his students, and Marguerite, when he was trying to convince her to read something other than Larousse Gastronomique. Wouldn't he be proud of her now.

The phone, much like the muted toll of the clock a few seconds ago, had scared Marguerite out of her wits. She gasped, and her book slid off her lap to the floor, where it lay with its pages folded unnaturally under, like a person with a broken limb. The phone, a rotary, continued its cranky, mechanical whine while Marguerite groped her nightstand for her watch. Eleven o'clock. Marguerite could name on one hand the phone calls she'd received in the past twelve months: There was a call or two from the editorial assistant at the Calgary paper; there was a call from the Culinary Institute each spring asking for a donation; there was always a call from Porter on November 3, her birthday. None of these people would ever think to call her at eleven o'clock at night--not even Porter, drunk (not even if he'd split from the nubile young graduate assistant who had become his late-in-life wife), would dare call Marguerite at this hour. So it was a wrong number. Marguerite decided to let it ring. She had no answering machine to put the phone out of its misery; it just rang and rang, as pleading and insistent as a crying baby. Marguerite picked it up, clearing her throat first. She occasionally went a week without speaking.


"Aunt Daisy?" The voice had been light and cheerful; there was background noise--people talking, jazz music, the familiar clink and clatter of glasses and plates--was it restaurant noise? It threw Marguerite off. And then there was the nickname: Daisy. Only three people had ever used it.


"It's Renata." There was an expectant pause. "Renata Knox."

Marguerite's eyes landed across the room, on her desk. Taped to her computer was Renata Knox's e-mail address; Marguerite beheld it every day as she binged guiltily on the Internet for an hour, but she had never sent a single message. Because what could she possibly say? A casual hello would be pointless and anything more, dangerous. Marguerite's eyes skittered from her desk to her dresser. On top of her dresser were two precious framed photographs. She dusted them carefully each week, though she rarely lingered over them anymore. Years ago she had scrutinized them so intensely that they imprinted themselves on her brain. She knew them by heart, the way she knew the streets in the sixth arrondissement, the way she knew the temperament of a soufflé. One picture was of Marguerite and Candace taken at Les Parapluies on the occasion of Renata's christening. In it, Marguerite was holding Renata, her goddaughter. How well she remembered that moment. It had taken a magnum of Veuve Clicquot and several glasses of thirty-year port to get Dan to relinquish his grip on his newborn daughter, and when he did, it was only to Candace so that the baby could nurse. Marguerite sat with Candace on the west banquette as the party thundered around them. Marguerite knew little of babies, or lactation; she fed people every day, but nothing was as captivating as watching Candace feed her daughter. When Candace finished, she eased the baby up over her shoulder until the baby burped. Then Candace passed her over to Marguerite casually, like she was a loaf of bread.

Go see your godmother, Candace said to the baby.

Godmother, Marguerite had thought. The last time she had been inside a church before that very morning was for Candace and Dan's wedding, and before that the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris the year she met Porter, and so her notion of godmother came mostly from fairy tales. Marguerite had gazed down at the baby's tiny pink mouth, which still made the motion of sucking even though the breast was gone, and thought, I will feed you your first escargot. I will pour your first glass of champagne.

"Aunt Daisy?" Renata said.

"Yes, dear," Marguerite said. The poor girl probably thought Marguerite was as crazy as the islanders said she was--self-mutilation, months in a psychiatric hospital, gave up her restaurant--or worse, she thought Marguerite didn't know who she was. How surprised the child would be to find out that Marguerite thought of her, and of Candace, every day. The memories ran through her veins. But enough of that! Marguerite thought. I have the girl on the phone! "I'm sorry, darling. You caught me by surprise."

"Were you sleeping?" Renata asked. "It's awfully late."

"No," Marguerite said. "Not sleeping. In bed, reading. Where are you, darling? Are you at school?"

"I don't start back for three more weeks," Renata said.

"Oh, right," Marguerite said. "Silly of me." Already she felt like the conversation was a dog she'd agreed to take for a walk, one that yanked on its chain, urging Marguerite to catch up. It was August now; when Renata went back to college she'd be a . . . sophomore? Marguerite had sent Renata five thousand dollars for her high school graduation the spring before last--an outrageous sum, though who else did Marguerite have to give her money to? Renata had graduated first in her class, and although she'd been accepted at Yale and Stanford, she'd decided on Columbia, where Porter was still chairman of the art history department. Renata had sent Marguerite a sweet little thank-you note for the money in loopy script with a lot of exclamation points--and Dan had dashed off a note as well on his office stationery. Once again, Margo, you've done too much. Hope you are well. Marguerite noticed he had not actually said thank you, but that would have been hoping for too much. After all these years, Dan still hadn't forgiven her. He thought she sent the money out of guilt when really she had sent it out of love.

"Where are you then?" Marguerite asked. In his annual Christmas letter, Dan had written about Renata's infatuation with her literature classes, her work-study job in the admissions office, and her roommate, but he had hinted nothing about her summer plans.

"I'm here on Nantucket," Renata said. "I'm at 21 Federal."

Marguerite suddenly felt very warm; sweat broke out on her forehead and under her arms. And menopause for her had ended sometime during the first Clinton administration.

"You're here?" Marguerite said.

"For the weekend. Until Sunday. I'm here with my fiancé."

"Your what?"

"His name is Cade," Renata said. "His family has a house on Hulbert Avenue."

Marguerite stroked the fraying satin edge of her summer blanket. Fiancé at age nineteen? And Dan had allowed it? The boy must be rich, Marguerite thought sardonically. Hulbert Avenue. But even she had a hard time believing that Dan would give Renata away while she was still a teenager. People didn't change that fundamentally. Daniel Knox would always be the father holding possessively on to his little girl. He had never liked to share her.

Marguerite realized Renata was waiting for an answer. "I see."

"His parents know all about you," Renata said. "They used to eat at the restaurant. They said it was the best place. They said they miss it."

"That's very nice," Marguerite said. She wondered who Cade's parents were. Had they been regulars or once-a-summer people? Would Marguerite recognize their names, their faces? Had they said anything else to Renata about what they knew, or thought they knew?

"I'm dying to come see you," Renata said. "Cade wants to meet you, too, but I told him I want to come by myself."

"Of course, dear," Marguerite said. She straightened in bed so that her posture was as perfect as it had been nearly sixty years ago, ballet class, Madame Verge asking her students to pretend there was a wire that ran from the tops of their heads to the ceiling. Chins up, mes choux! Marguerite was so happy she thought she might levitate. Her heart was buoyant. Renata was here on Nantucket; she wanted to see Marguerite. "Come tomorrow night. For dinner. Can you?"

"Of course!" Renata said. "What time would you like me?"

"Seven thirty," Marguerite said. At Les Parapluies, the bar had opened each night at six thirty and dinner was served at seven thirty. Marguerite had run the restaurant on that strict timetable for years without many exceptions, or much of an eye toward profitability.

"I'll be there," Renata said.

"Five Quince Street," Marguerite said. "You'll be able to find it?"

"Yes," said Renata. In the background there was a burst of laughter. "So I'll see you tomorrow night, Aunt Daisy, okay?"

"Okay," Marguerite said. "Good night, dear."

With that, Marguerite had replaced the heavy black receiver in its cradle and thought, Only for her.

Marguerite had not cooked a meal in fourteen years.


Copyright © 2006 by Elin Hilderbrand


Excerpted from The Love Season by Hilderbrand, Elin Copyright © 2006 by Hilderbrand, Elin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

When Renata, newly engaged to a wealthy Nantucket summer boy, comes to the island to visit her fiance's family, she decides to confront her tragic past. She goes against her father's wishes and visits Marguerite, the godmother she's been forbidden to see her entire life—the one person who can unlock the mystery surrounding her mother's untimely death. But Marguerite's life is not so simple, and preparing dinner for her goddaughter proves much more complicated than either of them imagined.

Whether it is in her Nantucket detail, her insight into the emotional dramas that shape people's lives, the moments that define them, or the loves who rule them, Elin Hilderbrand's storytelling abilities soar to new heights with every novel she writes.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 72 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 73 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2010

    The typos are too many and too distracting.

    The story is wonderful, but the typos are VERY VERY distracting! Unacceptable for an e-book. This needs a complete re-read by whoever edited it for this format.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2010

    The Road to Self Discovery Captivates the Audience

    The Love Season, by Elin Hilderbrand had me intrigued from page one. The interesting layout- one day documented hour by hour- captured my attention throughout the whole story. It is hard to believe that this entire story was expanded from just twenty four short hours! The characters all had such depth and complexity, and I felt like I was really able to dive into each character's point of view. Marguerite, a former restaurant owner, is preparing for a very important dinner with her goddaughter Renata, whom she had been forbidden to see since the death of Renata's mother fourteen years earlier. In preparing for this dinner, Marguerite left her home for the first time in a long time, seeing people for the first time in a long time that she had a past with. This span of twenty four hours in which Marguerite revisited her social life had her reminiscing on her past: in Paris, with her first love Porter, her beloved customers at her restaurant, the owners of local markets, and her distanced goddaughter. With the reunion of Marguerite and Renata, they give each other the strength to acknowledge the past and courage to move forward. The outlying theme in The Love Season is the journey to self discovery. Instead of dwelling on the past, it is best to move onward and find the positive outlooks about life while in search of finding one's place in the world. I was truly touched by this story, from beginning to end. I found myself diving into it whenever I could, because I was felt like I could relate to the journey of self discovery, as I am currently in that stage of my life. I would highly recommend The Love Season to any young adult that is looking for a simple, romantic, moving novel that is sure to be a great catch.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fabulous Book!

    I could not put this book down. Was so sad to see it end. I recommend every book this author has written. They are FABULOUS!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2009

    Diverse and interesting characters make this an excellent book. Forgiveness is an emotion we all need to practice.

    Currently I am raising a teenager and as I watch him/her venture in the twists and turns of discovering themselves and trying to guide them. This book has opened my eyes to allow him/her to make his/her own choices and ask me for my wisdom or guidance.

    Through this book we see how time has elapsed and forgiveness was never given or received until years later. This has occurred in my life and as I mend fences and move forward to forgive, I find myself feeling happier and accepting the death of my mother. My family is healing from six years of guilt we have all placed on ourselves. This book made me experience emotions I have not experienced in some time and I am grateful.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 24, 2009

    This author once again has a winner!!!

    Again the author grabs your attention from the begining and you come to love all the charactors. It was hard to put this book down. This author has new story lines, she is so refreshing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2014

    Elin's novels are delightful

    You will not be disappointed. She is one of my favorite authors.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2013

    Springclan border

    Springclan border

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2011

    The love season The love season

    I luved dis book

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 6, 2010

    good read but Nookbook version terrible

    I did enjoy this story very much, as I have with other books by this author. HOWEVER - I bought this as a Nookbook and I have to say the quality of the text was abysmal. I've been annoyed by other nookbooks type quality previously, but this one really made it difficult to follow the story. VERY frustrating.

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  • Posted January 10, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Another to add to the list of favorites

    What a fantastic author - funny how you can write aobut a day

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2009

    Escape to Nantucket

    This author has a way of letting her readers feel what life on Nantucket is like. Her characters are well thought out and interesting. She makes Nantucket an additional character in all her books. This book in particular was a sad story, but the way she describes the scenery and characters makes is so good, that you feel what you are reading and you feel for these characers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2007

    Well written.....

    This was a good book. I felt the feelings of Renata and the loss of her mother. Her desire to rekindle a relationship with her godmother was touching.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2007

    Read it**Loved it**Shared it with a friend who shared it with a friend who......

    Marguerite is a strong, principled woman who just wanted to love and be loved. You can't help but admire her and feel compassion for her life. The style in which this story is written keeps you in the moment and loving the characters for their totally human qualities. My life got in the way and I had to keep putting the book down, but finding time to pick it back up became my primary focus. I shared it with a friend who couldn't wait to see me to talk about all of the characters and plot lines. A wonderful story!I'd like to see a continuing saga with the same characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2006

    GREAT summer read....

    I just finished this book for Book Club and I have to say it was the perfect summer read. Charming, sad, exciting, and although sometimes predictable ... still a fun read. I really enjoyed the author's choice of telling a story over the period of 24 hours. By the end of the book, I felt I knew these characters personally. Great character development.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2006

    Romantically amazing

    The beginning alone just made my jaws drop. 'August 19, 2006' is memorable, personally. The fact that Elin wrote the story not far off the future but most probably a year in advance makes the reader interested and hooked. It is heartwarming and there is truth in her characters. I can believe that someone can be as cruel and indifferent as Margueritte's lover and Renata's eager will to know what really happened to her mother in Nantucket, that day she died. There are no hefty conflicts, just unintentional actions that were made in the past which haunted the characters present ( as for this one, it is the future for it still has to happen next month). Elin just made a bold move with her way of telling this story. I just love it. Pure, simple...ecstatic and yes romantic.

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    Posted November 13, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2010

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