Thanks to Netgalley for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review
Publications date: June 16th 2020
Publisher: Seabreeze Books
Jamie has been dreaming of this summer forever: of road trips and intensive art camps, of meeting cute boys with her best friend Jazz. What she didn’t count on was the car accident.
Exiled away from her family as her mother slowly learns to walk again, Jamie is sent to Provence and trapped in an isolated home with the French grandmother she has never met, the guilt of having almost killed her parents, and no Wi-Fi. Enough to drive a girl mad. That is, until, she finds an old letter from her father, the starting point in a treasure hunt that spans across cities and time itself. Somehow, she knows that the treasure is the key to putting her shattered family back together and that whatever lies at the end has the power to fix everything.
Armed only with a high-school-level of French and a map of train lines, she must enlist the aid of Valentin, a handsome local who’s willing to translate. To save her family, she has castle ruins to find and sea cliffs to climb; falling for her translator wasn’t part of her plan…
After living in France for several years, and experiencing the whole wildly out of water experience of moving to a country where you cannot for the life of you get the words you know to come out in a coherent fashion, I am always keen to find books that distil that experience out onto the page. And this one does, but also doesn’t. It’s a curious mix.
Good things first: I really loved exploring the south of France. There were places that I’ve been to before and I shrieked delightedly at my husband that they were visiting Cassis. And places that I’ve never experienced that I immediately added to the itinerary or our next trip. It made me feel homesick for excellent coffee and pastries and the food. It transported me straight into the middle of a hot French summer, where you can barely think beyond the sound of the cicadas.
However (you knew it was coming, didn’t you) I just couldn’t connect with Jamie. Whilst I completely empathised with the fish out of water experience, and struggling to keep up in a country where you aren’t fluent, I found her to be incredibly unlikable and frustrating. She is convinced that she’s been exiled to France because her parents hate her, and yet the few interactions she has with them early on do nothing to provide a basis for that. She struggles with the language yet makes zero effort to learn. She finds other tourists with their loud, obnoxious English conversations to be mortifying, yet can’t seem to understand that she is exactly the same.
It’s a light and quick read, and one that I enjoyed up to a point. But it never really finds its feet because it is weighed down by how frustrating I found Jamie. She wasn’t someone I wanted to spend time with - half the time I just wanted to shake her. However, as a book that catapults you right back into the heat of a summer in France it was a good escape.