Rousseau's Garden Paperback – Oct 16 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
As this thoughtful but stilted novel begins, Claire Symons, a 37-year old photographer, is visiting Paris with her older husband, art historian Adrian Arensberg. While he researches French gardens, she investigates why her long-dead mother, Dolly, once a confident sculptor, sank into depression after a trip to Paris 25 years ago. Convinced that her recent panic attacks derive from this mystery, Claire interrogates the aging socialist comrades of her mother's youth. Her journey takes her to interesting places, including a hammam (Turkish bath) and the country estate of an elderly countess. It also brings personal and ethical dilemmas, including whether to break an agreement that she and Adrian not have children, and whether she is entitled to delve into her mother's secrets. A former journalist, Charney (Dobryd) has a good eye for details like the "deer heads and antlers, pheasants, rifles, whips" hung on the walls of the countess's chateau; however, her journalistic telling (as distinguished from showing) inhibits reader identification with Claire and her problems. Equally distancing are numerous odd locutions, clunky plot contrivances and interlarded details from the life of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, about whom Claire reads during her quest and who inspired her mother. Claire appears much too dim for philosophy and the bits of "Rousseau lore" are never convincingly integrated into her story. Like the pebbles, leaves and pieces of dirt collected each day by Dolly's old friend, the Alzheimer's victim Jacques, these tidbits are assembled into "intricate patterns" that communicate only the urge to create.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Library Journal
Claire is a successful photographer, recently married to an art historian especially taken with gardens, and her life should be happy. So why is she suffering paralyzing anxiety attacks? She suspects that the reasons lie in Paris, where her artist mother spent a year before returning home, sad and silent, and then dying in a car wreck. So Claire heads to the City of Light with husband Adrian and begins hunting down the truth. Her mother's glamorous friend Marta is unusually unhelpful, and even her good friend Zo? doubts that Claire is doing the right thing. But though Claire's effort leads her to a painful secret, her stay in Paris transforms her life. Novels dealing with the small, everyday hurts of family life are either hopelessly mundane or far too shrill, as the author ratchets up the prose to make the work seem bigger than it is. Canadian author Charney (Dobryd) has the wisdom to let her story speak for itself, and it does so very affectingly. The result is a quiet, dignified work with some telling insights that make one pause to reassess one's own life. A lovely little gem; for most libraries. Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.