|Digital List Price:||$13.99|
|Print List Price:||$16.00|
|Kindle Price:|| $9.99 |
Save $6.01 (38%)
Your Memberships & Subscriptions
Download the free Kindle app and start reading Kindle books instantly on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required. Learn more
Read instantly on your browser with Kindle Cloud Reader.
Using your mobile phone camera - scan the code below and download the Kindle app.
Enter your mobile phone or email address
By pressing "Send link," you agree to Amazon's Conditions of Use.
You consent to receive an automated text message from or on behalf of Amazon about the Kindle App at your mobile number above. Consent is not a condition of any purchase. Message & data rates may apply.
The Pleasing Hour: A Novel Kindle Edition
A New York Times Notable Book
Young, inexperienced, and fleeing a terrible personal loss, Rosie—the new au pair to the Tivot family estate in France—finds herself ill at ease when trying to connect with Nicole, the cool, distant, and beautifully polished mother of the three children she cares for. There is something about the woman that both fascinates and unnerves Rosie.
The same is true of the rest of the Tivot clan. Nicole’s dissatisfied husband, Marc, and their children all seem to be caught in an unending struggle against each other for love and acceptance. Only when Rosie is sent to care for Nicole’s now-elderly guardian—the storyteller of the family’s secrets—does she finally discover the truth. There, Rosie will learn of a past darkened by war, duplicity, and a tragedy that still resonates in the Tivot’s lives . . .
With this novel of family, betrayal, and the naïveté of youth, Lily King has spun a story that is “powerful . . . splendid . . . [and all] so assured that it’s hard to believe the book itself is her debut” (The New York Times Book Review).
“Expertly constructed, full of surprises, superbly paced and sweetly sad, King’s book hardly reads like a first novel.” —Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Plaire is not a wealthy town. It is not one of those immaculate, romantic villages described in books about the south of France. Its streets are not made of cobblestones or clogged with visitors in the hot months. It does not have red cliffs, or châteaux, or the carapace of a fortress. The churches are unremarkable, the café terraces viewless. In the afternoon the narrow streets grow sinister, blackened by enormous shadows with clawed edges that slowly scale the pitted stucco walls. Half-dead ivy creeps down to meet them. Even at two o'clock on a bright spring day, you can turn down one of those streets and all light and heat will be gone. You will have to wait until your eyes have adjusted to move on. Through the slats of closed green shutters above, you can hear music or the sound of water in a basin or heavy plates being stacked or unstacked. The grocery bags will start to cut into your fingers, and the two miles back will seem, from that dark street, unachievable. But once you reach the valley, and Lucie Quenelle's farmhouse appears on the next rise, there seem to be seven suns stretching across the sky, each one celebrating your return.
She is waiting for me in the garden. I can see her straw hat twitching as she swats at something. At the sound of my sandals through the grass, a smile appears just below the hat's brim. It does not feel like penitence to be here with this old woman, though I know it should.
Once she sets me to work on the table grapes with her, it doesn't take her long to start in with more questions. She has so many, mostly about Nicole.
"She was very careful as a child, deliberate. Is she still?"
"Yes." I try to be curt, entirely uninterested.
"And so equable."
"Perhaps you are too young to know exactly what I mean."
"Perhaps," I say, feeling too old to argue.
She's teaching me how to rewire the trunks of the vines to their posts. Beside her quick spotted hands, mine work clumsily.
"Would you say she's happy, Nicole? Would you say she married the right man?"
"I don't know." But she wants more. She will not stop until she's wrung me dry.
"He's not a man I would have married," I add.
I can't think of one word to throw her off.
"It's hard to pinpoint, isn't it?" she says, furrowing her entire face. "But there's something about this Marc Tivot. A man should never make you feel old."
"She looks half her age," I say, deliberately misunderstanding, veering away. "She's in good shape. She's healthy, nimble -- "
"Nimble! Where did you learn a word like nimble? Sometimes you surprise me with the words you know. How is it that you can have such an extensive vocabulary but absolutely no memory for the definite articles?"
"I don't know. It's just a block I have," I say, embarrassed my errors have been noticed already.
Nicole's daughter, Lola, always insisted it was obvious. Look, she said, running to the table she had just set, a knife is masculine and a spoon is feminine. Look at them. You can just tell. Look at this plate. It's a girl's face. And this glass, it's a man. Can't you see it? Lola had bangs and a birthmark on her ring finger and pronounced my name, Rosie, with the best unrolled r in the family.
"Here. Not so tight. Please," she says with sudden impatience. "You're strangling the poor thing. And look down here. His roots are being pulled up."
"Sorry." I let go the vine.
"I love this earth." She squeezes a fistful and, when she releases it, it keeps the hollows of her fingers and the sharp peaks between them. I feel her smiling, waiting for me to look up. But I can't receive her at times: her pale eyes, her pressed white collar and the triangle of scaled skin it reveals, her nimble hands working the earth. Leste. All my words lead back to that family.
Marc called me nimble during my first week in Paris when I caught the glass at dinner. Their son had knocked it hard off the edge, reaching for the lemon syrup, and I caught it, a full glass of water falling from the table. Marc called me leste and the whole family looked at me, everyone but Nicole, like I might work miracles.
"Look at you. You're freezing," she says, leaving a hand on my bare leg. "The body is so beautiful when it's young. Enjoy it, Rosie."
But I can't feel anything -- not her withered hand or the earth she loves or the suns that are still blazing above us -- and I know if there's one thing I ache to abandon it is my body.
"You are eighteen, nineteen?"
"What on earth could make a child of nineteen so..." She studies me for a word that thankfully never comes. "When I was nineteen," she continues, "we moved here, to Plaire. Nicole's family lived right tip there, through those trees, which in those days weren't so high. You could see their house, from here, and the sun, as it fell below those mountains. But everything's higher now. Or maybe I've shrunk. I don't know what's different today about the sun and the air, but then the sky would go purple sometimes -- not purple, exactly, but mauve. That's what Nicole's mother called it."
"You knew her mother?" It is an odd image, Nicole as a child.
"She was seventeen years younger than me, but she ended up being the closest friend I ever had. She told me that when she was a little girl she'd sit on her grandfather's porch in Roussillon and have tea and cakes during the mauve hour. I never hear the word mauve without thinking of her, but the light's changed since then. Anyway, I think it's probably time."
"But we've done quite a lot today. Thank you."
She is giving me room, board, and two hundred francs a week, but she has thanked me every evening of the three weeks that I've been here.
We put the tools and the wire back in the broken basket and follow the path through the roses to the back door. She takes my arm on the steps for balance. "Ah," she says. "Can't you smell the stew? You were right to put in that extra basil." She gives my arm a good tug as if she might be falling, then casts off from me altogether as we enter the house.
After dinner I will write my sister a one-sentence postcard with no return address: Walked the path van Gogh walked with his bloody ear. It's a lie -- a place Lucie Quenelle has told me about farther south.
In the New Hampshire house with the red door -- and the gold slot into which these cards are dropped -- live my sister, her husband, and the baby I gave them. All I can hope is when that child has words he will tell them the things I cannot. Perhaps my whole life here in France will spill out of his mouth.
Copyright © 1999 by Lily King --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
- ASIN : B004CFAT0U
- Publisher : Grove Press (March 22, 2010)
- Publication date : March 22, 2010
- Language : English
- File size : 6842 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 258 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #76,668 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Not long before she arrived, Rosie had a child, and gave him up to the older sister who basically raised her. She's still working through that experience when she comes into the Trivot household, where the glossy surface conceals plenty of problems underneath: haughty Nicole and sheepish Marc are disconnected, and the kids each have their own struggles. Rosie becomes more integrated into their lives, finding some sense of security, before a trip to Spain unsettles everything.
One of the major themes of the book, and one that really resonated with me, is language: the power of fluency and the way it can both bring people together when it's shared and isolate them when it's not. Rosie arrives speaking poor French, setting her apart from the family, and even as her proficiency increases to the point where she feels comfortable speaking it in most situations and to everyone else in the household, she fears Nicole's ability to make her feel wrong. Nicole herself tries to bury the Provencal accent that marks her as a non-native Parisian. And the way Rosie sees herself and is seen by the Trivots shifts when they go to Spain and she has the most command of Spanish. Anyone who's ever tried to learn a language, or gone someplace where they didn't speak the primary one well, knows how isolating it can be when you don't understand it, how frustrating it can be to sort-of understand, but be unable to clearly make yourself understood, the thrill of being able to communicate.
While I found that particular thematic element of the book compelling, as a whole I'll admit it was just okay for me. It is a debut, and though it's the promising kind (King's prose is strong, and she shows flashes of brilliance of characterization), it doesn't seem quite sure of what exactly it's trying to say or do as a whole. We get in-depth looks at the family's children, and go back in time to learn about Nicole's parents and childhood, but get no insight into her as an adult or into Marc at all. The plot meanders, and important threads of narrative, like Rosie's emotional processing of her pregnancy and surrender of her child, didn't feel like they went anywhere. It's not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not particularly good either. If what you've read makes you interested, you won't be wasting your time in picking up the book, but you won't really be missing out on anything if you don't.
The dynamic of Rosie's and Marc's relationship was described amazingly and painfully well, even as Rosie came to understand what Nicole found objectionable in Marc. Rosie's discomfort and awkwardness were conveyed so well I was actually cringing during certain passages.
The only aspects I had trouble wrapping my mind around were how, since the Tivots got a new au pair every year, they were all so quick to open to, trust, and become attached to Rosie. The speed and ease of the transition from Paris to Plaire was also a little hard to fit into the relationship between Rosie and Nicole.
I appreciated how the story began and ended in Plaire, and the overall smoothness of that arc.
This is my second Lily King novel, having begun with "Euphoria". I plan to read everything she's written -- truly a gifted writer.
King's writing is bursting with color and primed with passion, it sweeps you off your feet with its many convoluted evocative nuances. The simple story of Rosie, the au pair with a tragic past, has so many angles it's as if it's reflected from a prism. The concept of a young woman perhaps being lead by her nose into guilt, or perhaps creating her own guilt is explored with such subtlety that it comes a a surprise to realize that this is really the theme of the novel. This kind of writing is rare, this type of author a 'one-in-a-generation' species. Not since I first read John Fowles have I been so deeply affected by the written word. The questions posed (without giving the plot away) : Did they plan it, had they done it before?