★ “Savor every page of Valérie Perrin’s irresistible novel, which, despite its deaths, betrayals, and affairs, is a triumphant celebration of life and love.”—ForeWord Reviews (Starred Review)
“A tender and poignant exploration of love, loss, and redemption...This enchanting indulgence in nature, drink, food, and friends is worth a look.”—Publishers Weekly
“Full of contentment and hope...Fans of Elizabeth Berg will enjoy this thoughtful take on the inner life of an unforgettable woman.”—Booklist
“Colorful and highly enjoyable and pulled together by an engaging narrator.”—Kirkus Reviews
“The story fluctuates between extremes with stylish elegance. It is melancholic and yet ebullient...What may on the surface of it appear gloomy and morose, in Perrin’s hands is an appealing indulgence in nature, food and drink, and, above all, friendships.”—The Guardian
“The balance between laughter and tears is spot on.”—Lire
“A bad, bad, bad case of love at first read. This is a splendid, moving book.”—C’est au programme
“Readers will be transported by the poetic gentleness of the narration, by the generous gaze that the two protagonists cast over human affairs, by the desire for peace that both Julian and Violette have, and by the welcome dose of humor. . . Readers will not be disappointed.”—La Croix
“This may be my favorite book of 2020. It’s only February, but I can hardly imagine another novel surpassing the pure loveliness of this one. The individuality and depth of her characters, the perfect measure of her prose, create a world where beauty, hope, grief and love commingle. The story of Violette the cemetery keeper the story of all the characters is so perfectly drawn. This is a novel of astonishing humanity accomplished with an art so subtle it will take your breath away.”—Mary McDonald, Nicola’s Books, Ann Arbor, MI
“The story mixes quirky characters, one dark plot line and entranced me with its quiet joy.”—Kathi Kirby, Powell’s Books, Portland, OR
“This book left me breathless and in tears! Fell in love with Violette and her entourage of characters from the first page and was mesmerized until the last word. Perrin has penned a story of life with love, loss, yearning, sadness and all of the emotions that humans experience during their lifetimes. And it is ultimately a love story written beautifully. Loved it!!!!!”—Stephanie Crowe, Page & Palette, Fairhope, AL
“Gorgeous—reading it was almost as if I was being baptized by Violette’s present as a cemetery keeper, in its comfort, stability and floral surroundings, into the pool of her melancholic past, from first loves to devastating losses, the air and water all but the same medium at the end of the day. It truly gripped each and every one of my emotions, from fear and sorrow, to elation and sentimentality.”—Cat Chapman, Oxford Exchange, Tampa, FL
“The only way I can describe this book is that it’s an epic. No, not ‘epic’ (though it is certainly that), but AN epic of Homerian proportions that delves deeply and into the lives of its characters as opposed to focusing only on its main character (Violette, the cemetery keeper) the entire time. It is contemporary fiction, a murder mystery, a thriller, a tragedy, and a romance all rolled into one.”—Katie MacKendrick, librarian, Denver Public Library
“This is one of those special books that defy description and make you glad it was written!”—Deon Stonehouse, Sunriver Books & Music, Sunriver, OR
“I've never wanted so desperately to hang out with a literary character. Violette is the type of person you feel like you could spend hours with…Reading [Fresh Water for Flowers] was truly a magical experience.”—Quentin Greif, Little City Books, Hoboken, NJ
“Fresh Water for Flowers is a moving and lyrical portrait of one woman’s quest for happiness and love. A splendid work that will keep readers absorbed to the last page. A charming must-read.”—Lindsey Bartlett, formerly of Ellen Plumb’s City Bookstore, Emporia, KS
“This story is simply beautiful. Fresh, fun, and so unique.”—Kappy Kling, HearthFire Books, Evergreen, CO
French bestseller Perrin makes her English-language debut in an atmospheric novel rife with adulterous romances, bad marriages, mysterious deaths, and lots of burials.
The frequent burials are because narrator Violette Toussaint is a cemetery keeper at the Brancion-en-Chalon cemetery in Burgundy. She arrived there some 20 years ago with no-good husband Philippe, a philanderer and spoiled mama’s boy who did her a favor by disappearing shortly after they took up the post. Except Philippe turns out to be living 100 kilometers away with another woman, she learns from Julien Seul, a handsome detective who came to the cemetery because his recently deceased mother, Irène, had inexplicably decreed that her ashes be placed on the grave of a man buried there who was, needless to say, not her husband. At first, Perrin unspools her plot in a leisurely manner, intertwining Violette’s recollections of her trying marriage, the records she keeps of what was done and said at individual gravesides (touching testimonies to the infinite varieties of loss and grief), and amusing portraits of the eccentric cemetery staff. Once Julien enters to disrupt Violette’s neatly ordered world, the author augments an already busy narrative with plot strands concerning Irène’s decadeslong affair, the growing attraction between her son and the cemetery keeper, the tragic story of the Toussaints’ daughter, and a chorus of new voices that soften our view of the not-quite-as-rotten-as-he-seemed Philippe. It’s a lot for one book, and the novel does sometimes falter under its own weight, but Perrin’s eye is so compassionate, her characters so many-faceted, and the various mysteries she poses so intriguing that most readers will happily go along for the long ride toward a pleasingly romantic conclusion tempered by one last funeral.
Overstuffed, at times rambling, but colorful and highly enjoyable and pulled together by an engaging narrator.