Saturday, July 31, 2010

166 (2010 #31). The Last Estate

by Conor Bowman

This slim, 168-page story begins in 1920 in Gigondas, in the Rhone Valley of France. World War I has ended and the protagonist, 16-year-old Christian Aragon, can't measure up in his father's eyes to his older brother who died in the war. Nevertheless, his cruel father insists that Christian take over the family vineyard. But Christian has other ideas.

He is attracted to his geography teacher, Vivienne Pleyben, who is eight years his senior. She encourages him to enter a contest which he wins, the prize being a trip to Avignon. She and a male teacher are to accompany him, but the male teacher instead goes to Paris to visit his mistress. In Avignon, Christian finds that Vivienne desires him too. Eventually, their forbidden love leads to murder.

This is a somewhat implausible tale with a surprise ending. The main characters are not all that likable. The author is an Irish lawyer who spends many summers in France, including one as a teenager in the real Gigondas. The trial scenes did feel authentic and kept me reading. However, I would have liked to have more description of the setting and more development of the characters. Oh, and more sex would have been OK too.

© Amanda Pape - 2010

[This advance reader edition was sent to me by The Permanent Press and will be passed on to someone else to read and hopefully review.]

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