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Coastliners: A Novel Paperback – August 14, 2003
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After three novels which centered around gastronomic pleasures, Joanne Harris's Coastliners focuses on more astringent joys. Sea, gritty sand, and adverse weather conditions replace Chocolat, Blackberry Wine, and Five Quarters of the Orange. Set on a small, blustery fishing island off the coast of France, it tells the story of Mado, a young woman who returns to her childhood home to find the local community torn apart by family feuds, bad tides, and murky political machinations.
Passionate, stubborn Mado, whose "head is full of rocks," tries to save the livelihoods of the villagers of Les Salants by urging them to work together to save the beach from erosion, both natural and man-made. The villagers, written with endearing panache by Harris, are an eccentric, curmudgeonly bunch, who eventually cooperate with the help of Flynn, a charismatic stranger with a shady past. He's not the only man of mystery in Mado's life; her father, taciturn Grosjean, has a secretive heart that's as "prickly and tightly layered as an artichoke," and local, wealthy businessman Brismand also seems to be hiding something. Mado does her best to unravel these mysteries, while attempting to keep a hold on her own sense of self in the claustrophobic, close community. It's not only the shore line that takes a buffeting. The villagers and the island are so vividly described that it's impossible not to become engrossed in Mado's story. Coastliners is a book about longing to belong, and Joanne Harris charts that emotional voyage compellingly. --Eithne Farry, Amazon.co.uk --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Family history meets village rivalry in Harris's poignant fourth novel, an understated passion play set on the provincial French island of Le Devin. Madeleine Prasteau leaves her Paris apartment to return to the island village of Les Salants, where she discovers that her father, a widowed boat owner, is going downhill along with the village itself as the rival town of La Houssinire grows and prospers. Despite her father's chilly greeting, Madeleine spruces up the family home, and when she meets an attractive, mysterious stranger named Flynn she gets involved in a project to save Les Salants by building a homemade reef to restore the fast-eroding beach. The project gets complicated when Madeleine realizes that Flynn has ties to Brismand, a rival of her father's, who controls local commerce in La Houssinire. The reef project succeeds, but with a bitter aftertaste when Madeleine's older sister, Adrienne, moves back to the island and her father becomes infatuated with Adrienne's children. Sibling rivalry fades to the background when Madeleine learns that Flynn's ties to Brismand extend into her own family history, and she discovers that Flynn was an integral part of a romantic triangle involving her father and Brismand. Harris develops her beguiling story in layers, drawing Madeleine into the village life she loves and loathes while exploring the nuances of island living. Despite the narrowly focused setting, Harris exposes a wide range of passions and emotions as Madeline gets involved with Flynn against the effective backdrop of the various family and village rivalries. This book lacks the lurid erotic power of Chocolat, but Harris compensates for the lowered levels of passion and eros by writing with power and grace about the family ties that bind.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The only thing I disliked about this book was the fact that it ended without revealing more about how the two main characters continued their lives.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys non-mainstream story lines.
But it's a good story with a bit of a mystery woven in from the very beginning: who is Flynn, really, and what's he doing at this godforsaken end of a small island in France?
Protagonist Madeleine Prasteau leaves Paris after her mother's death and returns to Les Salants, the village of her birth, where she discovers her father monosyllabic (and that's on a good day) and fading fast - as is the entire village. Madeleine determines to take on responsibility for not just her father and his wreck of a home, but also for the entire village. She somehow pulls warring factions together to build a floating reef to help sand be redeposited on the old beach, hoping for less flooding, better fishing, and more tourists. But that's not all: there are lots of side stories, family history, undercurrents - and romance.
A really good read, tho it's a little confusing to keep all the patois French names straight at first.
Having been captured by Chocolat, Blackberry Wine, and Five Quarters of the Orange, I was nonetheless unprepared for Coastliners , a work which weaves island yarn into a complex net of doubts, suspense, duplicity, sustainability, disaster, surprise, deception, but, above all, substance and, ultimately, delight.
Ms. Harris moves, like the tide, in and out. She tosses things ashore and carries them away. Her novel's sensitivity clashes with its self-destructiveness. It deadens occasionally in its own stupor. Its plot seems to change yet manages a phenomenal consistency. It appears to blow without direction, but its purpose remains steadfast. Its dull passages, like a tide pool, hide, as Oscar Hammerstein wrote for the musical Pipe Dream , "holy hell."
Even her characters reflect the sea's temperament: silent, unforgiving, tempestuous, argumentative, changing, calm, pleasant--the reader has it all.
This woman creates magic, and this novel finds me a willing subject for her charms.
Expect nothing from her previous works as you read Coastliners. This book differs from the rest.
Enthralled? Absolutely! Enchanted? Damned right I am!