Tag Archives: Gallic Books

Review: The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr

I received an advanced review copy of this title from Gallic Books through NetGalley.

My Review:
Lena GauntWhen we first meet Lena Gaunt, she is a lonely octogenarian who has been invited to play her theremin at a music festival near her home in Perth, Australia.  Lena has had a long and interesting life and her most notable accomplishment has been as an innovative musician.  After her performance on her theremin, a odd looking electric instrument that one plays by manipulating one’s hands in the air without touching it, she relaxes in her trailer by smoking some heroin.  At first this seems funny that a woman her age is engaging in such extracurricular activities; but as we learn more about Lena’s life, we come to understand that her dependence on mind altering drugs helps numb the pain of the  devastating losses she has experienced.

Lena is actually born in Singapore in 1910 where her father is a successful and wealthy businessman.  When Lena is only four-years-old she is shipped off to Australia to attend a boarding school.  This is the first experience of lost love that Lena experiences.  She is alone at this school, far away from any family and her only comfort is her music.  Her mother’s brother, Uncle Valentine, drops in on her every once in a while and it is Uncle Val that eventually introduces her to the cello.  Music becomes, for Lena, an escape, a comfort; it soothes her and gives her something on which to focus.

When Lena is a young adult she finally settles in Sydney among a group of artists and their patrons.  It is during this period where she is introduced to a professor who has invented the theremin and her expert playing and manipulation of this innovate instrument are what launches her into the spotlight.  It is also during this time that Lena meets the love of her life, Beatrix, who is a talented painter and artist in her own right.

Lena has a full life during which she is showered with accolades and acknowledgement for her musical talent.  But despite her success,  a feeling of loss and loneliness pervade her life.  She moves around the world, from Paris to London to New York City, but in the end she finds her way back to Perth and to the beach and ocean which she loves so much.

This seems, at first, like a quiet and slow book but about half way through it grabs you and sneaks up on you until you can’t put it down because you so desparately want to know what happens to Lena and those she loves.  I will admit that I had to wipe a tear or two from my eyes after finishing her story.

Gallic Books has brought us another brilliant, character centered story that I highly recommend.  They were one of my favorite publishers last year and their winning streak continues with me.  Kudos to Tracy Farr for a successful first book that is being published not only in her native Australia, but in England and the United States as well.

About the Author:
Tracy FarrTracy Farr is an Australian novelist, short story writer, and former research scientist. Since 1996 she’s lived in Wellington, New Zealand

Tracy’s debut novel The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt is published in Australia and New Zealand by Fremantle Press (2013), and in the UK by Aardvark Bureau (2016) for international release (excl. Aus/NZ).



Filed under Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Review: George’s Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle

I received an advanced review copy of this title from Gallic Books.

My Review:
George's Grand TourGeorge is an eighty-three year old gentleman living a quiet life in the French countryside.  He has been a widower for a few years now and his daughter keeps careful watch over his life.  George does not alter his daily routine of watching television, visiting with his neighbor Charles or napping so it is shocking when George decides that he is going to take a three thousand kilometer road trip.

When George’s overprotective daughter decides to take a two month trip and leave him alone, he makes plans with his neighbor Charles to embark on a trip of a lifetime.  These two elderly men prove that one is never too old, too tired or too feeble to have an adventure.  As George and Charles’ route follows the same stops as that of the Tour de France, the places they visit and the cast of characters which they meet on the way are interesting and delightful.

George’s granddaughter, Adele, decides that she has not seen her grandfather in over ten years and out of the blue wants to renew her relationship with him.  Adele begins texting George as he makes his way on his tour and the scenes in which George figures out how to use his phone and the language of texting are hilarious.  George learns that technology is not necessarily such a bad thing and the daily messages between himself and his granddaughter serve to rekindle their heartwarming relationship.

I must say that there were a few plot twists in this book that really surprised me.  George and Charles have very different reasons for embarking on their trip which are slowly revealed to us throughout the book.  Adele also has some of her own issues as a young woman who is trying to figure out her own place in the world.  There is also an interesting attraction between George and Charles’ single sister whom they stop and visit along the way.

No matter where George goes on his trip, he has a gentle way of winning people over and making friends.  He certainly won me over and I highly recommend giving GEORGE’S GRAND TOUR a try while you are sitting on the beach or anywhere else on vacation this summer.

About The Author:
C VermalleCaroline Vermalle was born in France in 1973 to a family whose French roots go back at least as far as the 16th century. Yet, she is a vegetarian who can’t cook, doesn’t drink, finds berets itchy and unpractical and would rather eat yesterday’s snails than jump a queue.

After graduating from film school in Paris, she became a television documentary producer for the BBC in London and travelled the world, at speed and off the beaten tracks, in search of good stories. In 2008, then on maternity leave, she penned her first novel « George’s Grand Tour », whose international success allowed her to quit her job and indulge in her three passions : books, interior design and travel – slowly this time.

After writing 7 novels in different genres and different languages, going on a world tour with her family and building a wooden house in a forest, Caroline now lives between a small seaside town in Vendée (France) and a small seaside town in the Eastern Cape (South Africa) with her son, a black cat and her husband, South African architect-turned-author Ryan von Ruben.




Filed under France, Literature in Translation, Summer Reading