When your husband dies, hanging out with his family can’t be easy, especially if you see him when you see his brothers. Even more especially if his father is an artist who carved a series of statues that bear a startling resemblance to him, all the more disturbing because the statues seem to capture your husband’s death.
If this sounds morbid, it isn’t. It is a captivating, engrossing look at a family brought together by a tragic death yet torn apart by hubris.
Daphné’s husband Ivan has been dead for eight years, yet her bond with his family has not diminished by any degree. She joins them for weekly dinners, she thinks of his parents as her own, and his brother Dimitri is her best friend, and she his. They confide in each other, support each other, and turn to each other when bored and in need of a movie date or dinner.
Ivan’s other brother, Vladimir, and his wife Diane are empty nesters, enjoying life in France while their daughter is in college in New York. Sisters Beatrice and Eve have also learned to live without him: Beatrice and her husband have two sons, and Eve has taken over her mother Nelly’s sewing business.
For her part, Nelly is as happy as a woman who lost a son can be. She enjoys pulling her brood close to her (all but Dimitri live at the family’s French compound, and Dimitri, a perfumer, has a studio there), and she enjoys navigating life with her mercurial sculptor husband Max. He doesn’t make it easy for her: he retreats daily to his studio, which Nelly refuses to enter because she does not want to see those statues. Max refuses to sell the statues, and Beatrice’s husband, a psychologist, suspects it’s due to guilt.
And here we get to the secrets that cause the unspoken suspicions. Max has several, one of which is a mistress in Paris. He has others, each increasingly more destructive than the next. Yet he comports himself as a bombastic, egocentric, opinionated blowhard, not as someone with anything to be guilty about. That Nelly supports him and stands by him is to be commended.
Other Brechignacs have secrets, too. Eve, for instance, hides one from most of her family. And then there is Dimitri, who worries that his will cause dissension and condemnation. Dimitri, you see, has fallen in love with his brother’s widow.
Daphné, who owns and operates the wine store she and Ivan started together, is fairly oblivious about Dimitri’s feelings, almost as oblivious as she is about her own. I loved Daphné and Dimitri. In fact, I enjoyed every member of the Brechignac family, even Max. He’s a bit of an arse, but his passion for his family is strong and unbending. Granted, it’s his family as he thinks he knows it; the true Brechignac clan may not be something he cares to see.
The “unspoken suspicions” are the secrets the family members keep. It’s difficult not to be suspicious when you wonder why your brother seems secretive or your sister won’t quite reveal herself.
As much as I loved Daphné and Dimitri, I loved the way Francoise Bourdin wrote this book. It’s one that I could not stop thinking about, and I’m already looking forward to reading it again. I enjoyed the nuances of these characters, and I wanted to join them for a family dinner. And I really, really want to smell that perfume Dimitri concocted.
Read this one. Lose yourself in Bourdin’s lyrical writing, and enjoy.