Rating:

the french house book coverReviewed by Marisa Deshaies

Frustrated by a career that she dislikes and a sense of loneliness amongst a circle of friends all in relationships, Irish-born Londoner CC makes a brave – but somewhat reckless – decision to move with her new boyfriend to southern French coast. CC desires nothing more than to make a simple life with Victor selling cheese and raising goats on his family’s ancestral farm. However, when a crazy aunt and her jealous girlfriend return to their home next door to the ramshackle farm house that CC and Victor are attempting to renovate, CC’s dream of an idyllic home-life along the Mediterranean Sea feels as far away as London. With a house in disrepair, renovations that seem never-ending, and few friends and neighbors for support, CC and Victor find that there is a lot more to a simple life than just living on a farm.

The French House, by British-born and French-based author Nick Alexander, is a contemporary fiction novel sure to make readers laugh and wonder at the hilarious escapades of its characters. The novel is written in a first-person point-of-view of its main character, CC, and so has plenty of appeal for female readers. However, while The French House technically falls into the women’s fiction genre—literature focused on a female protagonist who experiences life-changing events and maturation during the novel—the story stands out from its competition within the genre because of its quirky plot. The balance of bizarre but lovable male and female characters in The French House ensures that male readers, just as much as female ones, will enjoy Alexander’s book.

Along with the central story of Victor and CC’s attempts to renovate a farm house that refuses to come together, The French House also tells a story of family and friendship. These relationships are the selling point of the novel because they hold the theme of Alexander’s book: a home is more than a structure—it is the life a person makes for themselves surrounded by the people they love and who love them. CC discovers this idea when her move to the south of France does not bring her any more satisfaction than the life she had lived in England did. Despite not being brought down by a dissatisfying job or hampered by her crazy mother, CC finds that her experiences in France are more stressful than they would be under normal circumstances because she does not have the support of her family and friends to help her cope. The serious tones and emotional scenes Alexander creates for CC and Victor as the two struggle and learn about what is important in life will resonate with all readers that have to balance busy lives.

The deep emotional level on which The French House succeeds contributes to the high expectations of the book and readers are likely to hold all other aspects of the book to the same standard. Alexander’s writing is strong and his prose evokes the sadness, frustration, and hopes that CC and Victor experience; however, the character development is weak, which leaves a sense of emptiness to the novel that humor or love cannot fulfill. CC, instead of coming across as brave in her decision to leave her home for France, comes across as a shallow character who whines to get her way because Alexander never elaborates on the disappointments or frustrations that contribute to her actions. Her choice to quit her job and leave her home and friends for a boyfriend she has only known for a few months is truly an unwise one that almost all women are advised against at some point in their lives. In addition, CC tends to run away from her problems, blame others for unfortunate situations, and not take responsibilities for her actions. There is little to relate to in The French House’s female protagonist. Her counterpart, Victor, is somewhat more likeable than Alexander’s leading lady. Victor is strong, intelligent, and romantic—exactly what CC is looking for in a boyfriend. But Victor makes some questionable decisions in The French House that any modern man or woman would not be able to justify.

While the protagonists of The French House are at times are hard to love, Alexander’s secondary characters are hilarious, charming, and endearing. In fact, knowing that The French House is a sequel, readers may come to beg Alexander to continue his series with novels that feature Mark, SJ, or crazy Aunt Desteira.

Alexander fills his novel with sex scenes that leave little to the imagination. In addition, references are made to drugs, and characters often use crude language or swear words. This book is recommended for mature readers who appreciate a story of positive and challenging life experiences.

The French House is the second novel with CC as Alexander’s leading lady. While reading the first novel in the series is not mandatory to understanding the The French House, doing so may aid readers in understanding CC’s motivations.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

An alumna of the University of Delaware’s English department, Marisa holds a Master’s degree in professional writing from New England College. Her dream job is to work as an editor for a publishing company. A voracious reader of all types of literature, her favorite genres include the classics, contemporary and historical fiction, Christian fiction, and women’s “chick-lit”.

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