A neglected garden. A cottage that holds a secret. A mysterious and handsome Frenchman. Prepare to be “spellbound by the sheer charm” (Daily Express, UK) of Santa Montefiore’s tender and powerful novel about passion, loss, and the healing power of love.
It begins as Miranda and David Claybourne move into a country house with a once-beautiful garden. But reality turns out to be very different from their dream. Soon the latent unhappiness in the family begins to come to the surface, isolating each family member in a bubble of resentment and loneliness.
Then an enigmatic Frenchman arrives on their doorstep. With the wisdom of nature, he slowly begins to heal the past and the present. But who is he? When Miranda reads about his past in a diary she finds in the cottage by the garden, the whole family learns that a garden, like love itself, can restore the human spirit, not just season after season, but generation after generation.
Wise and winsome, poignant and powerfully moving, The French Gardener is a contemporary story told with an old-fashioned sensibility steeped in the importance of family and the magical power of love.
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Born in England in 1970, Santa Montefiore grew up in Hampshire. She is married to writer Simon Sebag Montefiore. They live with their two children, Lily and Sasha, in London. Visit her at SantaMontefiore.co.uk.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. :
The yellow leaves of the weeping willow in autumn
Hartington House, Dorset
Gus crept up to his mother's study door and put his ear to the crack. He inhaled the familiar smell of Marlboro Lites and felt his frustration mount at the sound of her husky voice speaking on the telephone. He knew she was talking to his teacher, Mr. Marlow. He assumed, correctly, that she wasn't on his side. Gus was a problem no one wanted to take the trouble to solve. "I don't believe it!" she exclaimed. "I'm so sorry, Mr. Marlow. It won't happen again. It really won't. His father will be down tonight from London. I'll make sure he talks to him...You're right, it's absolutely not on to bite another child...I'll find him and send him straight back to school." Then her tone softened and Gus heard her chair scrape across the wooden floorboards as she stood up. "I know he can be a bit aggressive, but we only moved from London a couple of months ago. It's been difficult for him. He's left all his friends behind. He's only seven. He'll settle in. Just give him time, Mr. Marlow? Please. He's a good boy, really."
Gus didn't hang around to hear more. He tiptoed back down the corridor and out the garden door onto the terrace. The lawn was a rich, wet green, sparkling in the pale morning light. He took a deep breath and watched mist rise into the air. He shoved his hands into his trouser pockets and shivered. He'd left his coat at school. Swallowing his resentment, he wandered across the terrace and up the thyme walk lined with shaggy round topiary balls. His shoulders hunched, his feet kicking out in front of him, his eyes searched for some small creature upon which to vent his anger.
At the end of the thyme walk was a field full of sheep belonging to their neighbor Jeremy Fitzherbert. Among the sheep was a disheveled old donkey called Charlie. Gus enjoyed nothing more than bullying the beast, chasing him around the field with a stick until his braying grew hoarse and desperate. He climbed the fence. Sensing danger, Charlie pricked his ears. He spotted the little boy jumping down and his eyes widened with fear. He stood frozen to the ground, nostrils flaring, heart turning over like a rusty engine.
Gus felt a jolt of excitement. He forgot about biting Adam Hudson in the playground, about running out of the school gates and up the High Street, about his mother's angry voice and his own clawing sense of isolation. He forgot about everything except the sudden rush of blood as he set off in pursuit of the donkey.
"You a scaredy cat?" he hissed as he approached the terrified animal. "Whoooa!" He lunged at him, delighting in the clumsy way the donkey stumbled back before cantering stiffly off towards the woods at the top of the field, braying in panic.What a shame he hadn't brought the stick. It was more fun when he hit him.
Bored of that game, Gus continued into the woods, leaving Charlie trembling in the corner of the field, surrounded by sheep. The ground was soggy, strewn with twigs and brown leaves amongst which a shiny pheasant scraped the earth for food. The sun shone weakly through the leaves, illuminating the spiders' webs that adorned the surrounding shrubbery with lace. Gus picked up a twig and began to swipe the webs, squashing the fleeing spiders under foot. The pleasure was fleeting, and he was left with the emptiness of believing, albeit subconsciously, that he was of no value to anyone.
Miranda Claybourne put down the telephone and remained at the window, staring out over the orchard. The ground was littered with apples and the last of the plums. She had sensed her son's presence at the door, but now he had gone. Of all the days Gus had to choose to play truant, he had chosen Deadline Day. She stubbed out her cigarette, reassuring herself that a lapse in her struggle to quit was absolutely okay; three puffs hardly counted. She didn't have time to go looking for him, and anyway, she wouldn't know where to start, the grounds were so large and, she observed with a sinking feeling, desperately overgrown and wet. The thought of tramping about in gumboots was intolerable for a city girl used to Jimmy Choos and concrete. On top of everything she had her monthly column for Red to finish. So far, the only advantage of living in the country was not having to brush her hair and apply makeup for the school run. Gus and his five-year-old sister, Storm, cycled up the drive every morning, leaving their bikes by the gate to take the school bus that conveniently stopped for them at eight. In London she had had to get up early in order to make herself presentable to the other mums in four-by-fours and oversized sunglasses who carried off a seemingly effortless glamour in Gucci, their smooth hair colored and cut to perfection at Richard Ward. In Hartington she imagined that barely anyone would have heard of Gucci or Richard Ward, which had seemed charmingly quaint on arrival, but was now simply quaint. She complained wittily in her column, which chronicled her struggle to adapt to country life, and turned her resentment into hilarity. Along with the wet, dreary weather, somehow wetter and drearier in the countryside than in London, the quaintness of Hartington was almost intolerable. There was nothing to do but laugh.
Unlike her husband, Miranda hadn't wanted to move out of London. The very thought of being farther than a whiff of perfume from Harvey Nichols made her break into a cold sweat. Eating at the local pub rather than at the Ivy or Le Caprice was almost enough to confine her permanently to her own kitchen table. How she missed her Pilates classes in Notting Hill, lunches at the Wolseley with her girlfriends, stopping in at Ralph Lauren for a little self-indulgence before returning home. But they had had no choice. Gus had been kicked out of school for being aggressive, and moving him to a quiet country school seemed the sensible option. He had a whole year to go before they could pack him off to boarding school where the problem of Gus would be taken out of their hands. For Miranda and David Claybourne, one year of Gus's bad behavior was an incredibly long time.
Oh God, what am I going to do? I really don't have time for this, she muttered to herself, throwing her cigarette into the wastepaper bin and covering it with a few scrunched-up pieces of newspaper so she wouldn't be reminded of her lack of willpower. She wished she had hired another nanny instead of insisting she do it all single-handedly.That was the trouble with being a working mother: the guilt. It went in tandem with exhaustion, trying to be everything to everyone while retaining a little for oneself. David had suggested she hire a cook and a gardener, that way she'd have more time to write. Living in the country wasn't like London where one could order a home delivery of sushi or a Chinese take-away from Mr.Wing; here she had to get in her car and go into town, which required planning. She didn't have time to plan meals. The only good thing was Mr. Tit the milkman who arrived every morning with the papers and milk in his white van marked with the license plate: COW 1. He made her laugh during the bleakest hour of the day, when it was still dark and damp outside and she was struggling to get the children ready for school. As for the garden, it was a proper garden, not a patio with a few potted plants, but acres and acres of land. It wasn't so easy to find help in the country. London was full of foreigners begging for work; in Dorset there didn't seem to be any foreigners at all. It was all so alien and unnerving. She didn't belong. David had fallen in love with the house on sight because it appealed to his aspirations of grandeur. She had accepted it halfheartedly, longing for Notting Hill and asphalt, slightly guilty for not appreciating such a big house in so idyllic a setting. But what on earth was one to do in the countryside?
As a freelance journalist she was always under pressure. They didn't need the money: David worked in the City and earned more than most people could spend in a lifetime, but writing was in her blood and she couldn't have stopped even if she had wanted to. She dreamed of one day writing a novel, a great big love story like Anna Karenina or Gone with the Wind. However, she had yet to come up with a good plot. Until she did, she was stuck with writing articles for magazines and newspapers, which at least fulfilled her need to express herself and gave her a vital foothold in London. Miranda busied herself at her computer so she didn't have to listen to the small voice of despair whispering inside her head. She put off her chores, hoping they'd go away, that David would admit it had all been a terrible mistake and take them back to where they belonged. After all, the countryside hadn't changed Gus. But David's enjoyment of the country rested on the fact that he could return to the city on Sunday and swank about having spent the weekend at his country estate. She was stuck down here indefinitely.
She considered her husband: handsome, debonair David Claybourne. Always in control, always strong and capable, cruising effortlessly through life as if he'd done it all before, loads of times. Now that they had moved she rarely saw him. At first he had returned home on Thursdays, staying until Sunday night. Now he arrived late on Friday and left after lunch on Sunday. He was tired,wanting to spend the weekend sitting in front of the television watching golf. If she didn't know him so well she would suspect he was having an affair -- but David was much too concerned about what other people thought to stray.
She returned to her desk and dialed her husband's number at Goldman Sachs. Apart from wanting to share her anxiety about Gus, she just wanted to hear his voice. "Darling, it's me," she said when he picked up the telephone.
"Now, what's going on down there, sweetheart? Everything all right?" He sounded buoyant. She was immediately reassured.
"It's Gus, he's run off."
David heaved an impatient sigh. "Not again!" She suddenly felt bad for having ruined his day.
Les informations fournies dans la section « A propos du livre » peuvent faire référence à une autre édition de ce titre.
Description du livre BCA, 2008. Hardcover. État : New. Never used!. N° de réf. du libraire P11034084048X