By: Juliet Blackwell
Published Year: 2018
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shape or form influenced my opinion.
Summary (Provided by Goodreads): Present day, San Francisco. During her free time, professional photographer Cady Drake shoots local carousels, a hobby inspired by a gift that transformed her childhood: a wooden rabbit supposedly created by master French carver Gustave Bayol a century ago. And when she's offered a freelance assignment for a book on the antique merry-go-rounds of Paris, Cady can't refuse the opportunity to visit the famous carousels for the first time....
1900s, France. In a small town outside of Avignon, a husband and young wife struggle to keep up their ancestral chateau--and start the family they so desperately desire. For the children they hope to have, the Clements hire the famous Bayol to build a carousel, but as the carver and his apprentice work on the beautiful and whimsical creation, fate will entwine them all in unseen ways--for generations to come...
Present day, Provence. As Cady's research leads her to the dilapidated Chateau Clement and its fabled carousel that was lost to the ravages of World War II, she will uncover a shocking truth in a set of one-hundred-year-old photographs that could guide her in reuniting a family torn apart by petty jealousies over several generations.
The cover looks so magical and enticing and the summary sounded magical too. I read and enjoyed Blackwell’s previous novel, Letters from Paris, so I thought this one would be interesting too.
What I thought
Cady has just lost the closest thing to family that she has ever known. While stuck in her grief, she discovers a box hidden within an antique carousel animal that she was given. Her best friend Olivia, suggests going to France to learn more about what she found and also to photograph carousels across France. While in Paris, Cady discovers more than just the carousels that brought her there.
Similar to Blackwell’s previous novel, this story alternates between the past and the present. It’s a little confusing at first because the first chapter is from 1900 and the perspective of Josephine, then it goes to the present with Cady, then it goes to Yves in 1900, and then back to Cady, and then finally it starts to alternate consistently between Maelle in 1900, Fabrice in the 1940s and Cady in the present (with occasional flashbacks to her past). It’s definitely the type of story where you have to pay attention to the date and name at the beginning of each chapter. It took a little while for me to get into because it was hard to keep the story straight, but eventually it found its groove.
I found Cady’s character to be very interesting. She is an orphan who grew up in the foster system until she was taken in as a teenager by an older woman who owned an antique shop. She isn’t good with people and keeps to herself, but she wants to have relationships and a family. She’s self-aware and I appreciated that. I think she’s one of my favorite characters that I’ve read in a long time.
The story itself moves a bit slowly, and like I mentioned, the format makes it a little hard to get into. I didn’t find myself sucked in until about halfway through. Fabrice in the present, as a grumpy old man, is a fun character and I wish we had gotten a little more of him. Jean-Paul confused me a lot. He seemed like a good guy, but then Cady kept making comments questioning his character so then I found myself holding back from liking him.
I also enjoyed the mystery of the history of the carousel and the Clement family. The dynamics of the small French town were fun and I was completely sucked into the country life. Personally, I am not much of a Francophile, so I don’t know much about France or even have much of an interest in it. However, Blackwell really drew me in. I also liked that there was consistency throughout the novel about Cady speaking French. I know it sounds silly, but when I read a book in English that’s taking place in a country whose language is not English, it always bothers me a little. I greatly appreciated that Blackwell consistently acknowledged that Cady was speaking French and even threw in some French phrases.