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The Pleasing Hour Hardcover – September 1, 1999

3.9 out of 5 stars 336 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The act of writing a first novel has a lot in common with being an au pair. Each is often accomplished by a young, overeducated woman who believes she is the center of the universe. This can make for dull reading, and sometimes for unattended children falling down staircases. But Lily King's fine first novel--about an au pair--neatly avoids the solipsism that often plagues coming-of-age stories. In The Pleasing Hour, 19-year-old Rosie has fled New Hampshire for France after undergoing an anguishing loss: she surrendered her newborn son to her infertile, married sister. Rosie is literally hollowed out, unable to see beyond her own pain. "Nothing in my body felt right. It seemed to be ringing with pain but there was no part of me that I could point to and tell her, Here, here's where it hurts."

In Paris she moves in with the Tivots: the unassuming, shambling father, Marc; the glamorous and unforgiving mother, Nicole; the beautiful daughter, Odile; the merry daughter, Lola; the momma's boy, Guillaume. Rosie steps into the highly polarized atmosphere of the Tivot household, unconsciously upsetting its equilibrium by throwing in her lot with Marc and Lola. And when the family heads off to Spain for vacation, the power balance shifts palpably, since Rosie is the only one who speaks Spanish. Even Nicole grudgingly admires her. What's more, Rosie notices Marc regarding her with the "relentless curiosity he'd had in his eye since we landed in Spain." On Mallorca, the two consummate their relationship, and the betrayal forces her to see beyond her own worries to the entrenched pains and allegiances of her host family.

King cleverly iterates this message in her narrative. She occasionally, deliberately, allows each member of the Tivot family to voice the story, and this opening-up of the narrative allows the world to flow into a novel whose themes might otherwise seem petty. In the end, the author doesn't perpetrate the dull crime of youthful self-involvement--she comments on it. We care for Rosie from the start, but we like her a lot more as she comes alive to the people around her. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly

A year in France brings a young American new reserves of sympathy and maturity in this poised, accomplished first novel. Nineteen-year-old Rosie, King's sensitive narrator, arrives in Paris on the first day of the school year, set for her job as the Tivot family's au pair. The other au pairs (in French usage, filles) are cosmopolitan students drawn to French culture. Rosie, however, has come here to flee her past: she became pregnant as a deliberate act of charity, giving up her baby so her infertile sister could have a child. But that decision has only heightened her omnipresent sense of loss. Her months with the Tivot family on their houseboat bring her new and difficult human connections: to the inquisitive, needy 12-year-old Lola and her younger brother, Guillaume; to their unhappy, astringent mother, Nicole; and to their father, Marc, with whom the reserved Rosie gradually falls in love. After Lola catches Rosie and Marc holding hands on a family trip to Spain, Rosie is sent to a small town in Provence to care for Nicole's Aunt Lucie, in her 90s. In chapters interspersed with Rosie's own story, Aunt Lucie fills in the background of Nicole's family, a grim account of inheritance and treachery during WWII. Expertly constructed, full of surprises, superbly paced and sweetly sad, King's book hardly reads like a first novel; her skilled observation and careful narrative voice prevent the wartime plot from seeming sensational, and keeps Rosie's saga of melodrama. In fact, the seamless integration of theme, plot and voice produces a rare sense of intimacy. Rosie's final discoveries about France, about families and about herself through Lucie, Lola and Nicole take her on an inward journey readers will feel privileged to share. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Atlantic Monthly Pr; 1st edition (September 1, 1999)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 237 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0871137542
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0871137548
  • Lexile measure ‏ : ‎ 910L
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.1 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.25 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    3.9 out of 5 stars 336 ratings

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Lily King grew up in Massachusetts and received her B.A. in English Literature from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her M.A. in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. She has taught English and Creative Writing at several universities and high schools in this country and abroad.

Lily’s first novel, The Pleasing Hour (1999) won the Barnes and Noble Discover Award and was a New York Times Notable Book and an alternate for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her second, The English Teacher, was a Publishers Weekly Top Ten Book of the Year, a Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year, and the winner of the Maine Fiction Award. Her third novel, Father of the Rain (2010), was a New York Times Editors Choice, a Publishers Weekly Best Novel of the Year and winner of both the New England Book Award for Fiction and the Maine Fiction Award. Lily's new novel, Euphoria, was released in June 2014. It has drawn significant acclaim so far, being named an Amazon Book of the Month, on the Indie Next List, and hitting numerous summer reading lists from The Boston Globe to O Magazine and USA Today. Reviewed on the cover of The New York Times, Emily Eakin called Euphoria, “a taut, witty, fiercely intelligent tale of competing egos and desires in a landscape of exotic menace.”

Lily is the recipient of a MacDowell Fellowship and a Whiting Writer's Award. Her short fiction has appeared in literary magazines including Ploughshares and Glimmer Train, as well as in several anthologies.

Customer reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5
336 global ratings

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