The release date for this book is 6th December 2016 and I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of it through Netgalley (get me eh?) I will be reading and reviewing some more advanced copies so look out for recommendations.
Rosemary is a 15 year old American girl who has some issues. The biggest of which is that she suffers from a form of anxiety which means that she is physically unable to speak in the presence of strangers, it’s like a crippling social phobia that means she can’t work her mouth properly. She lives with her mum (the term helicopter parent was invented for this woman), and her mum’s boyfriend Zander. She has a best friend called Jada who is also physically disabled and her life is controlled to the nth degree by her mum. Somehow (and this is never fully explained) Rosemary has managed to convince her mum that she is on an art retreat in Arizona where she is learning to paint like her favourite artists (The Impressionists). She is in fact in Nice, France where she has pitched up at the home of Sylvie and Emile. They run a shop and live above it where they paint and run a painters exchange type programme. Rosemary, so they think, is there because she loves painting and wants to improve.
But the thing is, Rosemary doesn’t like painting or The Impressionists, in fact she cannot paint at all. She faked the paintings that she sent Sylvie because she wants to be adopted by them and stay in France forever, basically to escape her crazy mum who locks her in her room. She has found Sylvie and Emile on the internet through Sylvie’s blog and has decided that they are the ones. She also thinks that they have lost their son, Ansel in a road accident in Paris and so will want to share the love with another child ie. her.
The other part of the story is that there is a secret apartment walled up next to Sylvie and Emile’s that has been locked up since the war. Rosemary finds a secret door to it in her bedroom and explores. She runs into her horrible neighbours (The Thackerays – they’re English so obviously they are the baddies) and thinks that they are trying to steal whatever is inside the apartment. She also meets another American family with a boy of her age called Gavin who she develops some weird relationship with. Even though she can’t speak….
You may be able to tell from my tone that I wasn’t too keen on this book! It started off ok but a little unbelievable and then got a bit worse. To be fair I did read it all the way to the end and did quite enjoy the sheer silliness of it but don’t think that that means that I thought it was a great book. Firstly, if this girl has this thing then how on earth did she manage to negotiate a trip all the way from America to Nice? Zander books the thing but he thinks she is just going to Paris so, she basically lies to everyone in the book. Sylvie and Emile are lovely but a little bit too trusting and how do they understand each other if Rosemary can’t even order a sandwich in French? She has done some lessons but is no way fluent. I just found Rosemary thoroughly unpleasant. and manipulative and, even though I guess I was supposed to feel sorry for her because of her disability and her horrible home life, I just couldn’t. There is no way her mum would let her organise a trip to Arizona without researching it all so how does she get away with it all? I wanted the author to develop the story about the locked up apartment but that was almost an aside. A whole book about that would be good.
It does give you a really nice impression of the French though, and the descriptions of Nice and the French way of life is good. Having spent a lot of time in France I thought it was pretty accurate. The book just had too many lose ends and plot holes for me to really enjoy it. You might though, especially if you like art….. or cats.