As she did in Chocolat, Joanne Harris creates a vivid portrait of an eccentric community, this one on the French island of Le Devin. After her mother's death, Mado returns to the island after having lived in Paris for years. She finds that nothing has changed, except for the presence of a mysterious newcomer named Flynn. It's a slow-paced story with little urgency, but the characterization is excellent, and Vivian Benesch builds on this strength. This audiobook demands a narrator who can handle a lot of French, which she does capably, and her subtle, controlled inflections bring the colorful characters alive.
The villagers of Les Salants say that if you kiss the feet of their patron saint and spit three times, something you've lost will come back to you. And so Madeleine, who grew up on the island, returns after an absence of ten years spent in Paris. She is haunted by this place and has never been able to feel at home anywhere else.
But when she arrives, she finds her father, who once built the fishing boats that fueled the village's livelihood, has become more silent than ever, withdrawing almost completely. His decline seems reflected in the village itself, for when the only beach in Les Salants washed away, all of the tourists drifted to La Houssiniere.
Madeleine, herself adrift for a long time, soon finds herself united with the village's other lost souls in a struggle for survival and salvation.
"Poignant...an understated passion play set on the provincial French island of Le Devin." (Publishers Weekly) "Within this layered, nuanced story, Harris expertly weaves her themes of family, community, and loyalty and shows how these values can be affected by money. Most impressively, she vividly depicts how a bleak, patchy strip of land can be synonymous with home." (Booklist)