french rhapsody book coverReviewed by Kelly Ferjutz

This quaint and charming book is almost more of what it isn’t than what it is! French Rhapsody sort of meanders along, very nicely, not rushed at all, and you can’t put it down! It tells an engrossing story of what happened (or – actually — didn’t happen) to a burgeoning rock group in Paris in 1983. They made a cassette of their music and with high hopes, sent it off to a recording company. And heard nothing. Not one word, not even ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’ (or whatever the French for that saying might be.)

And then one day, 33 years later, the response to that letter suddenly appeared. It contained an invitation to visit the company to discuss the future. It was no one’s fault really – this delay. The letter fell down behind a desk, where it stayed until that post office was being renovated. At least the Post Office did then forward the letter with apologies for the delay.

Alain Massoulier had been a guitarist then, now he was a middle-aged physician, with a wife and two sons. He had always wondered what might have happened with the group – the Holograms – had they heard from the recording company. He’d kept a copy of the cassette for years, and finally discarded it a year or two before receiving the fateful letter.

So, now he sets out to find all the old band members and their vocalist. It’s not that he thinks they can pick up where they left off–no, they all have their own lives now, but he really wants a copy of that cassette! It becomes the driving force in his life.

At this point, the story continues in different viewpoints from the other members of the group, and they are printed in a different font, to make it easier for the reader. The book is published by a French publisher, who translates French works into English for those who either won’t or can’t read in French. Somehow, it seems more accurate done in this way.

Anyway, we meet all the members of the band, from then until now. Not at all what you might expect, but delightful overall. It is funny in some places, rather sad and poignant in others, with surprises galore! The Holograms were: Bérengère Leroy, vocals, then a  provincial girl from Burgundy with dreams; Alain Massoulier, electric guitar, then a middle-class doctor’s son, now a doctor himself with wife and two sons; Stanislas Lepelle, drums, then a dentist’s son from Neuilly; Sébastien Vaugan, bass, then the son of a cobbler from Juvisy; and Frédéric Lejeune, keyboard, then the son of a train-driver, who longed to be a songwriter.

Their music was mostly written by Lejeune and Lepelle, with words by their lyricist Pierre Mazart, who was a bit older than the rest. He sold objets d’art and was passionate about literature. Thus, he’d taken up challenge to write lyrics in English, and was responsible for what would have been their one big song – “Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On.” Bérengère had met him at a party, in company with his younger brother Jean-Bernard Mazart, known then and now as simply ‘JBM’. With financial assistance from him, they self-produced their cassette.

The author has a wonderful sense of the ridiculous and uses it to great advantage here, writing sentimental as well as hilarious scenes that tug at the heartstrings or the laughter mechanism of the reader. His voice is both sardonic and quirky, well-suited to this type of story, which provides a very enjoyable experience! If you read for the joy of reading, you should love this book! Highly recommended.

First and foremost, Kelly is a reader, then a writer and editor. She adores Regency-set novels, and cozy mysteries. Every now and then, however, she finds something else to enjoy if it has a great premise with characters who belong in there, and fabulous writing! She writes under her own name, as well as her pen-name, Hetty St. James.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Gallic Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.