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The Matchmaker of Perigord

The Matchmaker of Perigord

4.0 5
by Julia Stuart

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Barber Guillaume Ladoucette has always enjoyed great success in his tiny village in southwestern France, catering to the tonsorial needs of Amour-sur-Belle's thirty-three inhabitants. But times have changed. His customers have grown older—and balder. Suddenly there is no longer a call for Guillaume's particular services, and he is forced to make a drastic


Barber Guillaume Ladoucette has always enjoyed great success in his tiny village in southwestern France, catering to the tonsorial needs of Amour-sur-Belle's thirty-three inhabitants. But times have changed. His customers have grown older—and balder. Suddenly there is no longer a call for Guillaume's particular services, and he is forced to make a drastic career change. Since love and companionship are necessary commodities at any age, he becomes Amour-sur-Belle's official matchmaker and intends to unite hearts as ably as he once cut hair. But alas, Guillaume is not nearly as accomplished an agent of amour, as the disastrous results of his initial attempts amply prove, especially when it comes to arranging his own romantic future.

For every reader who adored Chocolat, Julia Stuart's The Matchmaker of Périgord is a delectable, utterly enchanting, and sinfully satisfying delight.

Editorial Reviews

Joanne Harris
“A hilarious romp off the beaten track. Love it to bits.”
The IndependentExtra (London)
"A warm, funny novel about life and love in rural France...Stuart’s zesty narrative style is tailor-made for farce...Stuart injects her own brand of va-va-voom into this classic formula."
"This frothy debut, as enchanting as Joanne Harris’s Chocolat, follows Guillaume Ladoucette, a barber in southwestern France."
The Independent Extra (London)
“A warm, funny novel about life and love in rural France...Stuart’s zesty narrative style is tailor-made for farce...Stuart injects her own brand of va-va-voom into this classic formula.”
More Magazine
“This frothy debut, as enchanting as Joanne Harris’s Chocolat, follows Guillaume Ladoucette, a barber in southwestern France.”
Publishers Weekly

Unhappy cutting hair, Guillaume, the barber of the tiny, declining French town of Amour-sur-Belle, renames his shop Heart's Desire and tries his hand at matchmaking, even though he lost his first love, Emilie, years ago. Guillaume soon proves hopeless: he can't even help his best friend, Yves Leveque, whose heartaches have actually caused him indigestion. When Emilie returns to Amour-sur-Belle a rich divorcée, and sets about restoring a dilapidated old chateau that once brought tourists to the city, she enlivens the slumping town's eligible suitors and the town wags who watch their every move. Debut novelist Stuart infects Amour-sur-Belle's byzantine lore with whimsy (a mini-tornado that made the town pharmacist disappear), the usual beefs (an age-old feud, which began with Guillaume's mother) and sensual detail. It's all done well enough, but a reliance on magical-realist elements to resolve the town's spiraling affairs makes for an unsatisfying resolution. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

In the tiny French town of Amour-sur-Belle, the residents are aging, and life for many has grown stale. Facing reduced circumstances owing to the increasing loss of hair among his clientele, local barber Guillaume Ladoucette has decided to embark on a new career-as the town matchmaker. Unfortunately, his talents with relationships are nowhere near as sharp as his old barbering scissors, and before long the residents of this charming hamlet are involved in a series of romantic misadventures. No one is spared-not the dentist, the midwife, the middle-aged, or the elderly; childhood enemies and unrequited passions all find a chance at love. Even Guillaume himself gets caught up in the madness when his own long-lost childhood love returns to town-divorced, eccentric, and as beautiful as ever. Filled with enchanting settings and a brilliant attention to detail, Stuart's first novel is an enjoyable trip through the sweetness, sadness, and hilarity that love-and life-often brings. Highly recommended for all fiction collections.
—Leigh Wright

Kirkus Reviews
Villagers in a small French town search for love. Bachelor barber Guillaume Ladoucette finds himself stagnating in Amour-sur-Belle. Time seems to have forgotten the southwestern village. News still travels via the grapevine, not instant message. Meals are still something to be planned and savored, not nuked in the microwave. And love? Love is an intricate dance, a game of cat and mouse, not an anonymous hookup via MySpace. Amour-sur-Belle is a charming place, to be sure, but Guillaume has a problem: Business is drying up as the population of the hamlet ages. Rather than take early retirement or decamp from his beloved home, he decides to reinvent himself. He packs away his shears and opens Heart's Desire, a matchmaking service. After a few stalled efforts, it turns out Guillaume has a knack for giving his customers what they need-which doesn't always jibe with what they want. Soon just about every unmarried townsperson catches the love bug and lands on his doorstep. Devising dating schemes doesn't eat up much of the retired barber's day. His new business affords him ample time to tend to his garden and concoct glorious picnics. Indeed, even with his gastronomic pursuits, Guillaume feels a void in his life. Decades ago, his childhood love, Emilie Fraisse, slipped away and married another. Now she's returned to town, giving the still hopelessly smitten Guillaume a chance to make his most significant pairing. Following these gentle folks on their blind dates and awkward reentries into the field of romance is a sweet and simple pleasure. First-time novelist Stuart would have benefited from more editing, but she does manage to richly evoke the fecund sights and smells of rural France. Aslightly verbose, yet still delightful, excursion to a kinder, gentler place. Agent: Grainne Fox/Ed Victor Ltd.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.72(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Matchmaker of Perigord
A Novel


Guillaume Ladoucette wiped his delicate fingers on his trouser leg before squeezing them into the glass jar. As he wiggled them around the cold, slippery fat he recognized what he felt was an ankle and his tongue moistened. He tugged it out and dropped the preserved duck leg into the cassoulet made by his mother thirty-one years ago and which had been on the go ever since. The ghostly white limb lay for several seconds suspended on haricot bean and sausage flotsam before disappearing from sight following a swift prod with a wooden spoon.

Custodian of the cassoulet now that his mother had gone cuckoo, the barber gave the dish a respectfully slow stir and watched as a goose bone appeared through the oregano and thyme vapours. The flesh had long since dropped off, his mother having first added it to the pot nineteen years ago in celebration of his opening a barber shop in the village. Initially, Madame Ladoucette had strictly forbidden the bone's removal out of maternal pride. Years later, her mind warped by grief following the death of her husband, she convinced herself that her son's good fortune at starting his own business the only happy memory to surface during that difficult time was proof of the Almighty's existence. It was a conviction that led to her irritating habit of suddenly standing up at the table and dashing over to whichever unsuspecting dinner guest had mistakenly been served the grey bone. With a pincer-like motion, she would swiftly remove it from their plate with the words 'not so fast', in the fear that they would make off with what she had come to consider a holy relic.

From amongstthe beans emerged an onion dating from March 1999, several carrots added only the previous week, a new thumb of garlic which Guillaume Ladoucette failed to recognize and a small green button still waiting to be reclaimed by its owner. With the care of an archaeologist, he drew the spoon around the bottom and sides of the iron pot to loosen some of the blackened crust, which, along with an original piece of now calcified Toulouse sausage, were, the barber insisted, the secret of the dish's unsurpassable taste. There were those, however, who blamed the antique sausage for turning the pharmacist Patrice Baudin, who had never previously shown any sign of lunacy, into a vegetarian, a scandal from which the village had never recovered.

Keeping the cassoulet going was more than just the duty of an only son, but something upon which the family's name rested. For the cassoulet war had been long and ugly and there was still no sign of a truce. All those fortunate enough to have witnessed the historic spectacle agreed that the first cannon was launched by Madame Ladoucette when she spotted Madame Moreau buying some tomatoes in the place du Marché and casually asked what she was making. When the woman replied, Madame Ladoucette recoiled two paces in horror, a move not appreciated by the stallholder on whose foot she landed.

'But tomatoes have no place in a cassoulet!' Madame Ladoucette cried.'Yes, they do. I've always used tomatoes,' Madame Moreau replied.'The next thing you'll be telling me is that you put lamb in it as well.''Don't be so ridiculous, I would never commit such a perversion!' Madame Moreau retorted.

'Ridiculous? Madame, it is not I who puts tomatoes in a cassoulet, it is you. What does your husband have to say about this?''He wouldn't want it any other way,' came the terse reply.

Moments later, several onlookers witnessed Madame Ladoucette striding up to Madame Moreau's husband, who was sitting on the bench by the fountain said to cure gout watching an ant struggling with a leaf five times its size. Monsieur Moreau looked up to see a pair of crane's legs, whose owner was carrying a straw basket which his nose immediately told him was full of fresh fish.

'Monsieur Moreau,' she began. 'Forgive me, but it is a matter of utmost importance and a true Frenchman such as yourself will know the definitive answer. Should a cassoulet have tomatoes in it or not?'

Monsieur Moreau was so startled by her sudden appearance and line of questioning that he could think of nothing but the truth: 'The correct method of making a cassoulet is always a source of contention. Personally, I prefer it without tomatoes, as my mother made it, but for God's sake don't tell the wife.'

According to Henri Rousseau, who happened to be standing next to Madame Moreau as she was paying for her tomatoes, Madame Ladoucette walked straight back up to her and repeated the entire conversation, adding that it was her civic duty to cook a cassoulet correctly. Precisely what Madame Moreau called her in return Henri Rousseau failed to catch, a crime his wife never forgave and which led to her insisting that he wear a hearing aid despite the fact that he was not in the least bit deaf. There was no doubt, however, about what happened next. Madame Ladoucette reached into her basket, pulled out what was unmistakably an eel and slapped Madame Moreau across the nose with it, before leaving its head wedged firmly down her cleavage and stalking off. She had made it halfway down the rue du Château, when, much to the delight of the villagers who couldn't have wished for better entertainment on a Tuesday morning, Madame Moreau put her hand into the brown paper bag she was holding and hurled a tomato at Madame Ladoucette. It landed with such force her victim momentarily staggered.

While the pair never spoke again, the salvoes continued. From that day, Madame Moreau insisted on keeping a large bowl of over-ripe tomatoes near her kitchen window, which she used as ammunition from behind her white lace panels whenever her enemy passed. Madame Ladoucette retaliated by always doing her eel impression whenever she caught her adversary's eye in the street. And while Madame Moreau's throwing arm was not what it used to be, and Madame Ladoucette's eel impression, which was never that good to begin with, had for several years been hampered by a pair of ill-fitting dentures, the two kept up their insults well into their senility, when they became almost a form of greeting.

Leaving the duck leg to heat up, the barber decided to fetch a lettuce from his potager. By the time he reached the back door the soles of his bare feet had collected a small sharp black stone, a ginger-coloured feather, two dried lentils and a little sticky label from an apple bearing the words 'Pomme du Limousin.' Resting his right foot on his left knee, he first removed the stone, lentils and label. Then, with a muttered blasphemy, he picked off the feather which he immediately carried to the bin.

The Matchmaker of Perigord
A Novel
. Copyright (c) by Julia Stuart . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Joanne Harris
“A hilarious romp off the beaten track. Love it to bits.”

Meet the Author

Julia Stuart is an award-winning journalist and lives in Bahrain. This is her first novel.

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Matchmaker of Perigord 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much. I enjoyed every minute of my time in the little french village. I fell in love with the peculiar, quirky, interesting and hilarious villagers as they all fell in love. Every character is amazing right down to Violette the chicken! I would highly recommend this light-hearted and funny book. Be prepared to be hungry after all the lovely descriptions of french food!!
harstan More than 1 year ago
Guillaume Ladoucette, the only barber in aging Amour-sur-Belle, France struggles with his business in decline because his customers are reaching the age of baldness. He also is somewhat bored with life in his village except for the elaborate meals in which time has ignored the microwave generation. --- The bachelor wonders how he can remake himself and his shop. He comes up with what he assumes is a brilliant plan of being a matchmaker as he knows all there is about love having lost his Emilie years ago to a much wealthier suitor. Guillaume changes his tonsorial shop to Heart's Desire and tests his service with his best friend, Yves Leveque, who suffers heartburn from his failed relationships. After decades away Emilie returns home as an affluent divorcée with plans to restore the town¿s rundown chateau to bring back the tourists who once flocked to the village. Guillaume believes she came home for him so the matchmaker works on himself. --- This is an engaging whimsical tale that although occurring in the present invokes a bygone pre-Internet era. The characters make the story line fun to read as Guillaume arranges dates that fail yet somehow assist his clients with what they need and not what they want in a sort of turning upside down the belie the customer is always right. Although somewhat padded and the ill-advised use of enchanted ¿tiles¿ to resolve some relationship issues seems off kilter in spite of the fanciful quirkiness, fans will enjoy a charming trip to rural France guided by Julia Stuart. --- Harriet Klausner
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