It all began with Antoine Rey wanting to take his sister on a seaside vacation for her 40th Birthday. Having decided to take her back to their childhood vacation site brings back a swarm of memories both Antoine and Melanie had blocked after their mother’s death in 1974. One of these memories causes Melanie to drive off the road causing a major accident. Following the accident, Melanie and Antoine try to piece together the last few months of their mother’s death. Antoine faces the harsh reality of his divorce and tries to bridge the gap between himself and his family.
Set in both the countryside of France and in Paris, the author’s descriptions of the cities were beautifully depicted. I’m not sure if I’d peg this book as a fiction or a mystery. Although Antoine and his sister try to resolve the mystery of the sudden surge of childhood memories about their mother, I found this book to be more of an interesting family drama, but only in regards to Antoine, his ex-wife Astrid and their children. I found the whole storyline with his mother to be somehow lacking. There was a quote from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca at the start of the novel, which lead me to think this might be gothic mystery of sorts. Well, it wasn’t. Early in the book, chapters were interspersed with love letters, written by Clarisse, Antoine’s mother. By the end of the novel, I still couldn’t figure out the significance of the letters, and I found that they just took away from Antoine’s family drama.
His wife left him for somebody younger, his kids are sullen teenagers who don’t respect him. Watching Antoine piece his life together and finally step away from his past was an interesting and well-developed aspect of the book. de Rosney did a good job of maintaining a running theme of loss of innocence, mysterious & secret deaths, and dysfunctional families. I liked Antoine as the protagonist. He is flawed, but he overcomes his flaws in a very natural and human way. The big mystery regarding his mother’s death is never fully explained, and I like that too. It’s not neatly wrapped up in a bow, ready to go.
I didn’t find the mystery suspenseful at all, and the big reveal about his mother fell short for me. It didn’t really match all the anticipation built up around it. I still found the book to be both engrossing and a very quick read. The pages just flew by. The characters were all fascinating with layered back-stories that the author just barely hints to.