The Folly of French Kissing: A Novel
After being innocently embroiled in a school scandal, teacher Judith Hay decides there is only one thing she can do: leave Britain. The small village of Vevey in Languedoc near Montpellier seems the perfect answer. Life is cheap and the views are pretty. Vevey, however, may well be the French answer to St Mary’s Mead, hiding an abundance of vice behind its pretty facades.
Soon, she meets her fellow expats and something seems odd. It appears that many escaped Britain for their own, dark, reasons rather than for the sunny climate. Behind their somber faces, even the French seem furtive, and still harbour Nazi secrets. There is one local expat in particular, Gerald, who makes her shudder. If he is really as depraved as she thinks he is, his evil plans hatched with a local Frenchman will need to be stopped.
The Folly of French Kissing was another of those novels that was a fantastic surprise and I can’t say anything, but I truly enjoyed every page of it from beginning to end. This is mainly because I harboured some unfair views that I garnered firstly from the title and then the front cover. Basically, I thought I’d been offered a novel that was going to be pure unadulterated chick lit, which isn’t really my thing, and when it turned out to be so much more I was hugely surprised and pleased.
The Folly of French Kissing combines light humour, believable characters and a darker, much more sinister undertone that plays out convincingly without ever getting too heavy at any time, making it a fantastically enjoyable summer read.
The main character is ex-school teacher Judith, who is fascinating in her own right as she struggles to come to terms with her new life in France after escaping the tawdry school scandal which cost her dearly in the form of her job. Judith’s character isn’t easy to warm to or even relate to but as events unfold she becomes somewhat of a heroine and the way things turn out for her are especially pleasing.
Other leading characters include journalist Tim who is remarkably tame for an apparently cut-throat journalist and manages to come across very well, especially once he gets involved with Fern and her trouble son Ben. My favourite characters are the Campions, including the villain of the tale Lance who I think is fantastically drawn and very easy to dislike even before you discover the horrifying extent of his misdemeanours. His wife Jean is a bit more of a stereotype, but it’s impossible not to feel empathy and compassion for her as events are revealed.
I realise this review might seem a little odd as there’s a big thing I don’t want to mention because it would be such a spoiler. But the book is so fantastically written and paints a beautiful picture of French village life from the point of view of an ex-pat, that this alone should be enough to attract any reader.
I was particularly impressed by the author’s ability to craft such wonderful characters, even those who were only met for a second left a lasting imprint and I’d be keen to see what else she has to offer in time. I’m glad I wasn’t too turned off by my initial reactions to the title and the front cover design as I would have missed a treat.