In an abandoned old house in rural France, novelist Gillian Tindall discovered a cache of letters written in the 1860s, addressed to Celestine Chaumette. Tindall searched dusty archives and farmhouse attics and probed the memories and lore of local villagers in her quest for learn about Celestine. The treasures Tindall unearthed ultimately reach far beyond the mystery of one woman to tell of a vanished way of life, of a century of revolutionary change, and of the strange persistence, intrusion almost of the past into today.
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An exceptional recreation of la France profonde of the 19th century. Novelist and biographer Tindall (The Born Exile: George Gissing, 1974, etc.) begins her journey into the past of C‚lestine Chaumette and her village in central France when she stumbles upon seven letters lying long forgotten in a cupboard in the home of C‚lestine's granddaughter. The letters date back to when C‚lestine was a young woman in the mid-19th century; most are from thwarted suitors who courted the innkeeper's refined daughter before she wed the oil-presser Pierre Robin in 1865 and settled down to the difficult life of a married woman in the French countryside. From this slight bit of physical evidence, Tindall delves into C‚lestine's life, speculating about what she and those around her might have thought, eaten, and worn, how they might have been born, married, and died. Tindall also describes her own experiences as a part-time inhabitant of the village, her research, and the unlimited access she is given to village records dating as far back as the French Revolution. With her eagle eye, the author gleans a miraculous amount of information from this cryptic material. She then colors her portrait with details from contemporary newspapers and memoirs, interviews with residents of the area today, and fictionalized descriptions of the region in the 19th century, including some set down by George Sand, who lived nearby. Tindall also sketches portraits of some of the village's other residents, past and present, from C‚lestine's grandfather Fran‡ois, born before the Revolution, to the Australian painter who lived with C‚lestine's granddaughter Z‚na‹de in the house where the author would later find the seven well-worn letters. The result is an example of excellent social-historical detection written with a novelist's feel for character and place. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
In a deserted house near her own in the French village of Chassignolles, Tindall found four carefully preserved old letters, each from a different man, proposing marriage to 19-year-old Celestine Chaumette, the long-deceased grandmother of the last resident of the house. The young woman had accepted none of these suitors. Her curiosity piqued, British historian/novelist/biographer Tindall, who has been a householder and part-time resident of the community for 20-odd years, set out to discover more about Celestine. She queried neighbors and relatives, explored the local cemeteries and pored over musty 19th-century archives. But the search for Celestine led her to a many-layered study of nearly a century of agrarian life in the region of Berry, in central France near Nohant, where George Sand lived and wrote. Here, life centered on the seasons, the land, births, marriages and deaths-the rhythm of life remained much as it had been for centuries. That rhythm is caught in Tindall's imaginative prose, as are the generations of village characters she brings to life. The coming of the railroad, electricity and, above all, roads and highways significantly altered the way of life there, and the young, as they do everywhere else that family farms give way to technology, moved off to jobs elsewhere. In her search for Celestine, Tindall has also drawn a remarkable picture of the agricultural heart of France.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Henry Holt & Co (P), 1997. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0805051775
Book Description Henry Holt & Co (P), 1997. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0805051775
Book Description Henry Holt & Co (P), 1997. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110805051775
Book Description Henry Holt & Co (P). PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0805051775 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.0380211