Customer Reviews: The Matchmaker of Perigord: A Novel (P.S.)
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on August 14, 2008
Guillaume Ladoucette (whose mother's feud with Madame Moreau involves assault-by-eel and overripe tomatoes) is the barber for the village of Amour-sur-Belle, a tiny hamlet of 33 aging residents, each with his or her own quirks and past secrets (many of which were revealed during the mini-tornado of 1999, when they all thought they'd die). When his client list dries up (due to a combination of balding customers and his refusal to attempt cutting-edge hairstyles like The Pinecone), he decides to set out his shingle as a matchmaker. He's an unlikely choice, having been secretly in love with Émilie Fraisse for twenty-six years, but he approaches his new calling with enthusiasm, if not immediate success. He continues to push pairs of villagers together, insisting that love is like a cassoulet--you must take the good with the bad. As Guillaume undertakes the massive task of bringing love to the villagers, drought has brought a communal shower to Amour-sur-Belle, and villagers must walk to the square in their dressing gowns to queue up for their daily shower.

Though the book is clearly contemporary, with references to a mini-tornado in 1999 and prices in euros, Stuart has given the village and its residents timeless appeal. Every person is referred to in every instance by both first and last names, and many physical descriptions and important events are described using the exact same phrasing, and these echo comfortably throughout the book, like an epic told from memory by a master storyteller. The repetition is both lyrical and practical--it helps the reader keep the numerous characters, their pasts, and their relationships with each other straight. Stuart also retells the same stories from different points of view at different times in the action, creating a rich, layered confection worthy of Stéphane Jollis, the baker. The stories themselves are inventive, just barely believable, but with a sense of farce, in the manner of Émilie Fraisse giving tours of the castle and creating wild stories about the furnishings.

This book has been compared to Chocolat. I must confess that, though I love the film, I've avoided the book, but to the film at least the sense of timelessness, the charm of rural France, and the entwined lives of the villagers have similarities. If a charming tale of deceptively simple village life sounds like your cup of tea (or truffled foie gras, as it were), I highly recommend this for a fun read.
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on June 18, 2008
In general, although I consider myself one of life's natural booklovers, I admit to have spent several years absorbed in the SF & Fantasy realm, snobbing the other genres of fiction, on the consideration of loss of enthusiasm, because of their being always too similar, predictable and slow-paced (admitting though that I too have the terrible tendency to sneak in the last chapters of each and every book I get my hands on). So, imagine my shock and delight in coming across this well written, fast-paced book that had me laughing for hours, hardly putting it down to sleep and recommending it even under the threat of violence to my closest relatives and friends! I have to say that I did not in the least sneaked, not even a little bit at the end, not wanting to miss a single word of it.
The story takes place in what must be one of France's ugliest villages, Amour-sur-Belle, where the main character, the village barber, living with his senile mother, who, as the author puts it 'has gone cuckoo', and the custody of the family's ancient cassoulet, realises that the declining hairline of his customers and their tendency to adopt terrible modern haircats from a younger stylist in a nearby town, oblidge him to shut down and decide to change his career direction towards bringing back love to the remaining 33 (32 but no one agrees on paying the paint to change the number at the entrance sign of the village) middle-aged (+) villagers by becoming a matchmaker.
But how could that be when he hasn't been able to find love himself, treasuring the memory of his first-and-only elementary-school sweetheart?
He is surrounded by a number of exhillarating characters, among which the prise-winning, abundantly-built and fun-and little cakes-loving baker, the -unwilling to believe it- beatiful widowed midwife, the avaricious dentist who has his own family secret to hide, the senile love-struck secret village painter, the incontinent postman and many others, not to forget his long-last childhood flame, come back in her own search of love and quiet.
And of course, not to forget,the installation of a communal shower can only make things even more interesting...
In short it's a great story of love, hate, feunds, misunderstandings, romance, secret affairs, extreme haircuts, superb food and problematic showering, of losing and finding and of finally reaching wisdom and fullfillment, written with humour and love for all above and last, but not least, for France and the Mediterranean temperament.
I loved it.
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on September 7, 2013
This is a cute, silly book about a man who realizes his barbershop is going under because all his customers are bald or have left him for a different barber who is capable of more than three hairstyles. The former barber realizes he doesn't know anybody who's in love and decides to try his hand at matchmaking instead. Along the way he goes fishing and passive-aggressively competes with the baker, subjects himself to showering in the newly installed community shower, and pines for the one that got away.

I would file this in the "cozy" category, though it is well-conceived and well-written. The scenery is great, the characters are quirky, and there are running jokes that made me smile every now and again. Like I said, it was fun and had a good heart - it just didn't have me hooked.

I do like Stuart's writing style and unique vision. For folks who haven't read her before, I highly recommend The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise instead
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on June 21, 2015
Interesting little novel, the style of which took a little getting used to before I got into the groove. Set in France, it's full of quirky little characters from the barber turned matchmaker to the townspeople who frequent both his establishments. The writing style is very different and at first seemed stiff and awkward, but once I got into the groove, I found such delight in it. The author refers to her characters with full names at all times, and the almost word for word repetition of some things (two characters fishing and delving into their picnic baskets for one) at first threw me for a loop, but soon became quite endearing, evoking a smile when they came up. By the time I finished, I wanted to go back and re-read it to get the charm of what I missed before it grabbed hold of me, and to fully drink in the characters from Guillaume Ladoucette, the barber turned matchmaker, his long ago love Émilie Fraisse, his mother and her arch-rival (a tomato and eel throwing hoot), the postman, the barkeeper, and everyone else right down to the government man who comes to tell the residents of the ugliest town in France that because of the draught, no more private baths are allowed, and a village shower is to be installed. Delightful little book.
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on October 30, 2009
Quirky as an adjective to describe this book has popped up already in several reviews here. So yes, ditto, it's quirky. But, it's just so doggone-laugh-out-loud-fun. . .quirky here works! But make no mistake, this book is very, very well written. The author takes you into each scene, deftly weaving a story you can't help but follow. I admire her skill. Oh what a wonderful, wonderful book!!! One of the most enjoyable reads I've had in a long time. I was smiling the whole time I read it.
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on June 25, 2016
I loved this quirky little book, told tongue partially in cheek. The author has crated characters that stick to your ribs, like a good cassoulet, and the descriptions can't help but make you laugh. This is almost like a cartoon with words, a loving depiction of characters and events in this tiny French village, where food, crops, baths, and love hold great importance. I read a great deal, sometimes so much that books don't stay with me after I've finished them. Before Amazon, it wasn't unusual for me to pick up the same book twice, forgetting that I had already read it, but this one is unforgettable, a wonderful tonic in a real world gone crazy. You will smile, when you're not outright laughing.
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on June 18, 2016
I was surprised that a person with such an English name, Julia Stuart, could write a book that sounds so through and through French. So I looked her up and apparently she did live several years in France. It is a delightful story of a truly small village where people know each other and their foibles but also their love for food. In fact, the barber and his friend try to outdo each other on their fishing outings with what they bring in their picnic basket. It is just a fun read. And the barber for lack of customers in the end becomes a matchmaker with sometimes good and sometimes not such good results.
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on September 2, 2009
I adore Joanne Harris, so when I saw this book on my library's bookshelf with a blurb on it from her, I snatched it up. I'm so grateful I did.

It's my favorite kind of book, what I call a quiet novel-a beautiful tale, so exquisitely written and laced with humor, that it doesn't jump up and down demanding attention the way a more commercial book does. It's a shame in a way, because the Matchmaker and his fellow villagers are delightful to spend time with. More people should do so. Though I will warn you, all the mouth-watering descriptions of will be craving cassoulet...

My favorite book so far this year. I can't recommend it enough.
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on May 30, 2016
What a joyful tale of the trials and tribulations of moving to another country. The adventures and misadventures kept me involved right up to the end. I hope this author has more tales to share. Bureaucracy anywhere can be a challenge but sometimes the French just like to make it harder. Pull up a chair and enjoy this delightful tale.
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on July 8, 2016
Actually I had a great deal of fun reading this book. Its tongue in cheek humor etched the images of the small village's inhabitants into my psyche forever. The underlying love story is enchanting. It was a fun book to read, one I am sorry to have finished.
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