The Matchmaker of Perigord Synopsis
A perpetual breeze blows through Amour-sur-Belle, a village so ugly that even the English refuse to live there. Guillaume Ladoucette, the barber, is forced to give up his business as the advancing age of his customers means many have gone bald. He decides to set himself up as a matchmaker instead, for, despite its name, love is the one thing that Amour-sur-Belle lacks. Some shun Denise Vigier because her grandmother was found guilty of horizontal collaboration during the war. The bar owner refuses to serve Madame Fournier, the mushroom poisoner. And Madame Ladoucette and Madame Moreau have been trading insults for so long they have become almost a form of greeting. ‘Not everyone falls instantly head over heels’, the matchmaker counsels. ‘Love is like a good cassoulet, it needs time and determination’. But how can a matchmaker make love simmer – when he has not yet solved the problem of his own troubled heart? (Book Depository)
When I saw that Joanne Harris of Chocolat fame described Julia Stuart’s debut novel The Matchmaker of Perigord as ‘a hilarious romp off the beaten track, love it to bits’, I knew I just had to read it.
Julia Stuart’s The Matchmaker of Perigord is a wonderfully quirky mix of opposites – old and new, hilarity and melancholy, mystic fancy and pragmatism.
Particularly charming is the relationship between protagonist Guillaume Laudocette and his friend since childhood, village baker Stephane Jollis.
‘But despite their bond, the baker knew nothing of the tumultuous state of Guillaume Ladoucette’s heart. The affliction was such that his doctor had taken one look down his ears and gasped at the decades’ worth of unwept tears.’
The affliction referred to is a bad case of lovesickness. In fact, its not just the out of work barber that’s lovesick – it seems the whole village of Amour-sur-Belle is. This fact dawning on Guillaume, the hapless matchmaker sets to work pairing up many of the quirky and misunderstood villagers.
The misguided but oh so endearing characters in Perigord include Patrice Baudin, the town’s vegetarian pharmacist who blew away in a mini-tornado; Jean-Francois Lafforest, the nervous council inspector charged with monitoring the communal shower; Gilbert Dubuisson, officious postman and avid gardener; Lisette Robert, discreet and curvaceous midwife; Sandrine Fournier, the ambulant fishmonger and alleged mushroom poisoner; and Violette the persistent chicken, just to name a few!
Lots of characters with lots of history and complex relationships between them for Guillaume to unravel. The question is, can the matchmaker of Perigord find love for himself?
Stuart’s prose is whimsical and filled with jaunts of charming description of both French rural scenes and mouthwatering cuisine. The Matchmaker of Perigord is such a fun and enjoyable read and Julia Stuart is a talented author – one to watch.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5
Genre: Drama, Romance, Humour
Author Information: Julia Stuart was first an award-winning journalist before publishing her debut novel The Matchmaker of Perigord and more recently Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo. Stuart grew up in England but now lives with her husband, also a journalist, in Bahrain. See Stuart’s Harper Collins author page for other interesting information.
– Julia Stuart lists a book I also enjoyed, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude as one of her favourite novels.