Ms. Hen picked up this book at a Little Free Library near her house, because she had read another book by this author, GIRL IN HYACINTH BLUE, and she enjoyed it immensely. Ms. Vreeland writes a lot about art, which is a subject Ms. Hen enjoys. She doesn’t always like the way everyone talks about art, but she can appreciate beauty.
This novel is about a young woman, Lisette, who is dragged to the countryside of Provence against her will to help take care of her husband Andre’s grandfather, because he is sick, right before the outbreak of World War II. Lisette can’t stand to be in the rural area, she yearns for Paris, the city where she was born; the place full of excitement and brimming with love. She loves her husband, but pines for the city.
That is, until she gets to know the grandfather’s paintings. She falls in love with the artwork by Pissarro and the Cezanne, and the mysterious painting they think is by Picasso. She vows to take care of the paintings. Pascal, the grandfather, dies, and Andre goes off to war, and hides the painting so the Nazis will not steal and destroy them. Lisette goes to find them, but cannot, and it is a long process after the war to find them.
This book took place in a similar timeframe as another book that Ms. Hen read, but she adored, called LA BATARDE, by Violette Leduc, which is a memoir about a woman growing up in France as an illegitimate child, or a bastard, hence the title. However, there are few similarities. This novel is not as urgently written and powerful as Leduc’s memoir. The Resistance is mentioned, and so is the black market during the war, but LISETTE’S LIST pales in comparison in importance and scope.
Ms. Hen loved the descriptions of the French countryside in Provence, and she longed to go there as she read. She has not been to that area of France, but she has been to the other side of the south, Languedoc, and thought it was breathtaking, and dreams of returning. She couldn’t understand how Lisette could not love this place immediately, but she does eventually. This book was not Ms. Hen’s favorite book she has read recently.
This novel seemed to go on a little too long, and it seemed to drag. Ms. Hen thought this book was what she calls “book clubish,” a word to describe a novel written for women, which is just too nice, not offensive, with nothing dark about it, for women or people who do not want to get easily offended by writing. This surprised Ms. Hen, because GIRL IN HYCINTH BLUE was one of her favorite books she read last year. But that book has a lot of spirit that this novel simply lacks.
This is not the worst book Ms. Hen has read recently, but it is not the best. Ms. Hen does not recommend this novel to people who like to be punched in the face and inspired by something they read. But there are a lot of chickens and hens floating around within the pages, which is one positive aspect. But mostly Ms. Hen says, no, find something else to read.