Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin

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Violette Toussaint is the caretaker at a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne. Random visitors, regulars, and, most notably, her colleagues—three gravediggers, three groundskeepers, and a priest—visit her as often as possible to warm themselves in her lodge, where laughter, companionship, and occasional tears mix with the coffee that she offers them. Her daily life is lived to the rhythms of their hilarious and touching confidences.

Violette’s routine is disrupted one day by the arrival of a man—Julien Sole, local police chief—who insists on depositing the ashes of his recently departed mother on the gravesite of a complete stranger. It soon becomes clear that the grave Julien is looking for belongs to his mother’s one-time lover, and that his mother’s story of clandestine love is intertwined with Violette’s own secret past.

With Fresh Water for Flowers, Valérie Perrin has given readers a funny, moving, intimately told story of a woman who believes obstinately in happiness. Parrin has the rare talent of illuminating what is exceptional and poetic in what seems ordinary.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this. I read the English translation, the choice of words along with the inclusion of original language. My French is limited, I appreciated what I presumed in the interpretation. I’d recommend this to anyone. It would make a great book club read.

The Story
Grief, the human condition, deep resonance. Original, thought-provoking. Also a very therapeutic read. Reminded of questions proposed and analyzed in my university Death and Dying course. Some parts joyous, others heartbreaking, some funny notes, other themes more daunting. Each chapter titled with funerary epigraphs graciously set the tone. Struggles, perplexing matters and thoughts from satisfying life choices whether personal or relational, episodic, near death, or overall.

Loved the telling of Hans Christian Andersen’s, The Fir Tree.

The Writing
Prose rich, deep, lyrical. Poetic. Every sentence was so tightly linked. Like a game of dominoes where the two numbers match up, adjacent the fives, so on and so on. Interconnected and all tangible in the same way, whether my lived experience or not, the style of writing was captivating. Word choices and scenarios were presented in such a pure, honest, personal way.

This is one to savor and will be in my thoughts for a long time to come.

MY FAVORITE LINES:

“What do you expect will become of me if I no longer hear your step, is it your life or mine that’s going, I don’t know.”

“Being is eternal, existence a passage, eternal memory will be its message.”

“You must learn to be generous with your absence to those who haven’t understood the importance of your presence.”

“People are strange. They can’t bear to look in the eye a mother who has lost her child, but they’re even more shocked to see her picking herself up, dressing herself up, dolling herself up.”

“It’s the words they didn’t say that make the dead so heavy in their coffins.”

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One response to “Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin”

  1. […] depressing. I don’t remember feeling this way reading it as a child. I read it in response to Fresh Water for Flowers by Valérie Perrin mention in her book, wanted to read the full version for Life’s Library Readathon, 2021 Forest […]

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