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Monday, June 11, 2018

ARC Review: The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier by Rosalind Brackenbury

Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
Seb Fowler has arrived in Paris to research his literary idol, Henri Fournier. It begins with an interview granted by a woman whose affair with the celebrated writer trails back to World War I. The enchanting Pauline is fragile, but her memories are alive—those of an illicit passion, of the chances she took and never regretted, and of the twists of fate that defined her unforgettable love story.

Through Pauline’s love letters, her secrets, and a lost Fournier manuscript, Seb will come to learn so much more—about Pauline, Henri, and himself. For Seb, every moment of Pauline’s past proves to be more inspiring than he could have imagined. She’s given him the courage to grab hold of whatever life offers, to cherish each risk, and to pursue love in his life.

Intimately epic, The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier spans generations to explore every beautiful mystery of falling in love, being in love, and losing a love—and, most important, daring to love again and discovering just how resilient the human heart can be.

Until I read the author's notes at the end of the book, I didn't know that the central characters in The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier were actual historical figures.  I had never heard of Henri Fournier (aka Alain-Fournier) or the apparent French classic Le Grand Meaulnes.  But reading this novel makes me want to add Le Grand Meaulnes to my TBR pile.

While I wish there had been much more historical detail, there is so much to like about this book. The characters and various love stories evoke strong emotions of love and loss.  Vivid scenes of French country life add to the novel's charms.  The story itself alternates between three different time periods, and three unique stories.  

What I Liked:

The three time periods each focus on various characters, but at different times in their lives.  

In 1914, the story is about Pauline, and her intense love affair with Henri Fournier.  She begins the novel seeing marriage as a necessary business transaction.  There is no thought that love will be part of the deal.  That all changes when she meets Henri, the newly-hired secretary for her husband.  I love Pauline for how she embraces life on her own terms. She will not be content to fall into a more traditional role as a wife or as a mother looking after children.  Even when she falls deeply in love, she keeps to her goal of being an actress.

Seb is introduced in the second time period of the 1970's.  He starts out rather wimpy, letting the girl of his dreams, Annie, get away.  But he also has ambition.  When he interviews Pauline for a book he is writing, he learns he must be single-minded in his pursuit of Annie, if he is to win her heart.

In modern times, the focus is on Isa, who is Henri Fournier's great-niece.  After her divorce, she shuts herself off from love, so as not to get hurt again.  Seb, now a man in his sixties, has been asked by Isa to look over some of Henri's papers.  What will Isa learn from him?

Love Stories:

In each time period, there are the themes of love and loss.  I am usually not a fan of books that glorify extramarital affairs.  But Pauline's circumstances in the early 1900's were of a loveless marriage where both parties found love somewhere else.  Divorce was not an option.  I didn't feel that Pauline was having an affair to get back at her husband, or because she wanted some excitement.  She genuinely fell in love.  The tragedy for Pauline was due to the times she was living in.  Even if the war had not happened, I think the couple was doomed due to Henri's traditional expectations of women in relationships (hint: It's supposed to be all about him).

For Seb, he finds love, after almost losing it, but has to now find a way to live on after his beloved Annie suddenly dies.  How can he do that?  After a wonderful marriage, would it be disloyal to perhaps find love again?

French Country Life:
While I didn't think there were enough historical details, the descriptions of modern French country life were lovely.  They showed a way of living that was timeless.  I especially enjoyed the descriptions of harvesting and preparing food.  It would have been great to show such scenes in both the early 1900's and modern times which would have tied the eras together.

What I Didn't Like:
Lack of Historical Details: 
As a fan of historical novels, I look forward to all the little details that will place me, the reader, firmly in that time period.  But this book did not describe enough in the World War I era, or in the 1970's, to give me this sense of time.  I was particularly surprised by how untouched Pauline seemed to be by the Great War.  She never seemed to be hungry or experience any shortages.  Yes, the book's focus is on how one deals with love and loss, but it seemed strange that Pauline didn't feel any other hardships to go along with losing the love of her life.


Release Date:  June 12th, 2018

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Author:  Rosalind Brackenbury

Publisher:  Lake Union Publishing

Page Length:  318 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book

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2019 Reading Challenge
MsArdychan has read 10 books toward her goal of 120 books.


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