ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Fresh Water for Flowers is a story about happiness, written by Valérie Perrin. Perrin is a French author with a few books under her belt. Her first book was Les Oubliés du dimanche (The Forgotten Sunday), published in 2015. She has also written Changer l’eau des fleurs, published in 2018. This was later translated into English as Fresh Water for Flowers. Her third book, Trois (Three), was published in 2021. Apart from writing, Perrin also works as a film set photographer and screenwriter, which is where she gets the material to write her books from.
Perrin’s first novel, Les Oubliés du dimanche, was published by Albin Michel and won a slew of prizes, including the Prix national Lions de littérature, the Chambéry Premier Novel Prize, the Chronos Prize, the Prix Poulet-Malassis, and the Prix Intercommunal Lire Élire. It was translated into several languages, including English, Italian, and German. It was titled The Forgotten Sunday in English. Her second book, Changer l’eau des fleurs, was also the recipient of several awards, including the Prix Maison de la Presse. This book has been translated into more than thirty languages and was a bestseller in Italy in 2020.
Fresh Water for Flowers is a story about happiness. Set in France, the main protagonist is Violette Toussaint, née Trenet. Violette grew up as an orphan and worked in the cemetery. Violette describes how widows and widowers throw away flowers and plaques put on the graves of their deceased spouses by their lovers. The cemetery was full of such stories, and Violette ensured that she knew all the inhabitants buried there. She also took notes describing the actual burial in detail.
She was alone and in need of love when she met Philippe Toussaint in a nightclub. It was love at first sight for Violette. He asked her to quit her job because he was jealous of the other patrons. While she took up a job as a barista to support herself financially, Philippe wasted himself away in drinking. His parents would try to find jobs for him, but he wouldn’t last even a week at any of them.
Eventually, Violette gets pregnant and the two marry, but Philippe grows violent and physically abusive to her. Being pregnant gives Violette the courage and opportunity to finally learn to read. Life goes on, and with Philippe cheating on his wife regularly, his parents start taking an interest in their daughter, Léonine, whom they call Catherine. They take her away on vacation and give her the opportunity to mingle with the children of wealthy people. Unfortunately, she dies in a fire accident, leaving Violette alone and mourning.
Violette decides to not attend her daughter’s burial and goes to Marseilles to her friend, Celia. It was at Celia’s chalet where she used to spend the summers with Léonine. She almost drowns there, but Celia rescues her. Violette goes into a daze and begins to drink heavily. One day, she comes across a list of people who had been the last ones to see Léonine.
Immediately afterward, she receives a mysterious plaque with the words “My darling, you were born on September 3rd, died on July 13th, but to me, you will always be my August 15th.” Seeing the inscribed words, she suddenly comes to a realization. She decides to find out the truth about how the fire started. For the first time in months, she visits the cemetery where her daughter is buried. She meets the cemetery keeper there and strikes up a friendship with him.
The suspense of finding out what exactly happened on that fateful day and who was responsible for the fire is better to be read on your own. The author adds a lot of twists and turns to keep the story engaging to the very end.
WHAT WE LIKED ABOUT FRESH WATER FOR FLOWERS
The author uses simple characters to present a story that is sad but has its elements of joy, surprise, and everything else. The way the protagonist bounces back at the end of the story leaves the readers with a sense of hope, encouraging them to never give up.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER ABOUT FRESH WATER FOR FLOWERS
At times, it feels like the author has crammed a lot of character detail into the book. As a result, the story feels disjointed at places. It takes a while to piece together all the information provided by the author.
We never meet people by chance. They are destined to cross our paths for a reason.
You must learn to be generous with your absence to those who haven’t understood the importance of your presence.
We think that death is an absence, when in fact it’s a secret presence.
Fresh Water for Flowers is a beautiful depiction of love, kindness and empathy and the sheer will of the protagonist, Violent, to believe in happiness and her right to it despite the gloominess surrounding her. The book deserves nothing less than 4 stars out of 5 for being a sheer delight to read, especially for fans of literary fiction.
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