THE LOST CAROUSEL OF PROVENCE – Juliet Blackwell
California and France – 1900 to Present Day
This novel encompasses three different decades and three different people and, eventually, will connect them in an interesting way.
Cady Drake has spent her young life moving from one foster home to another. She is unaware of who her parents are, or were, and she carries a huge chip on her shoulder. When she vandalizes Maxine's Treasures, a small store, as a teenager, Maxine decides that there is something about Cady worth rescuing. Even though initially Cady is resistant to any kindness or help, eventually the girl who doesn't trust anyone comes to love and respect the older woman who encourages her to take up photography and who gives her the magical carousel rabbit which Cady nicknames Gus. Cady's world is small and inclusive for she is not a social being. Her best friends are Olivia from school and Maxine. But when Maxine dies and Cady has an emotional loss on top of it all, Cady is encouraged by her only other friend to pursue her fascination with Gus and travel to France to research carousels, photograph them, and write a book about it. It is at that time that she accidentally breaks Gus and finds a mysterious box inside with a photo of a young woman by a carousel.
In Paris, Cady shoots pictures of the various carousels in the city. She meets Jean-Paul, a young architect who is from a village where the carousel in the old photograph is located. Intrigued, Cady rents a car and travels there, where the mysterious owner of the Clement chateau hides out and refuses anyone access to the grounds of the now derelict carousel. She and Jean-Paul team up to work on Fabrice Clement, Jean-Paul's relative, to let them visit the chateau.
1900 - Maelle Tanguy of Bretagne is the daughter of a wood sculptor who trained her in his trade. She travels to the famous carousel factory of Gustave Bayo, hopefully to apprentice with him. Scoffed at and hired as a house maid, Maelle soon convinces the master that she is, indeed, knowledgeable, and he allows her to do minor work in the factory. But when another worker is disabled just before they all travel to assemble the Clement chateau carousel, Maelle is allowed to go with them.
1944 - Fabrice Clement lives as a recluse in his family's chateau. But as a teenager during the German occupation of France, he was part of the Resistance. Because he was blond and looked like a child, he was able to get into areas that older boys could not infiltrate, and he was able to get information for the leader of his group. But when disaster strikes them, as well as his family, Fabrice realizes that someone he loved was responsible. And now, as an old man, he trusts no one, and is aware that the rest of his family thinks he is not entitled to the chateau or even his name.
THE LOST CAROUSEL OF PROVENCE is a fascinating mystery rolled up into a romance, travel journal, and history lesson. Cady is the “detective”, ferreting out the truth from Fabrice, Jean-Paul, and the old, shattered carousel. It's also the coming of age for Cady who has lived her life as a loner, convinced no one cared for her and that she couldn't care for anyone.
Beautifully written and impeccably researched, THE LOST CAROUSEL OF PROVENCE is broken down into sections about each character, culminating in a lovely, realistic conclusion. A Perfect 10 and a lovely way to end the summer.