Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Juliet Blackwell - The Lost Carousel of Provence

Long, lonely years have passed for the crumbling Château Clement, nestled well beyond the rolling lavender fields and popular tourist attractions of Provence. Once a bustling and dignified ancestral estate, now all that remains is the château's gruff, elderly owner and the softly whispered secrets of generations buried and forgotten.
But time has a way of exposing history's dark stains, and when American photographer Cady Drake finds herself drawn to the château and its antique carousel, she longs to explore the relic's shadowy origins beyond the small scope of her freelance assignment. As Cady digs deeper into the past, unearthing century-old photographs of the Clement carousel and its creators, she might be the one person who can bring the past to light and reunite a family torn apart.

Comment: Last year I've read another book by this author and I liked it enough to feel curious about some of her other titles. Meaning, some of the most recent, since I've seen she also wrote other genres which don't feel as interested in reading.

In this story, Cady Drake is a young woman who has had some loss in her life, especially the woman who took care of her and who helped her create some of her fondest memories, she was like the adoptive mother Cady has always wanted. Still somewhat mourning, Cady accepts the task of the magazine which will publish her photographic book on carousels if she travels to Paris to do this. Cady feels like trying not only because it will be a change of scenario but she also wants to investigate the little carved rabbit she owns, which might have been done by the same creator of carousels in France. There, she starts her work and gets to know about a carousel no one has seen for years, in Provence. Someone at a museum she visits to investigate puts her in contact with the grandson of the estate where the carousel is and this is just the beginning of her adventure...

Having read the other book and considering the blurb, of course I imagined Cady's research in France would also have the collateral of her falling in love. It's true, romance readers see romance in almost everything...however, this isn't the intention of the author so don't expect the romance aspect to be that fact, it was rather underwhelming as I found pretty much the whole book.

There is, evidently, a lot of obvious details on how much the author has researched and learned in order to write about carousels and carvers and artistic /technical details on this field. This is always a fascinating part of historical stories, the fact we get to learn too, about a subject not very known or not known the way we should. I'd say all the content related to professional issues, or how competent the information on practical facts is feels certainly well done. To me, it's the fictional part that somehow disappointed me.

One detail I found a little annoying was how many times we would go "back in time" to know things from the past of the characters. It's a good tactic to avoid all that telling but it happened too often, I think. We go back to Cady's childhood, to her growing up days, we go back to the family who ordered the Provence carousel done, then also the POV of a woman who worked there, then to the past of the grandson of that family as he was part of the Resistance during WWII and I can't remember if there is another past section or not. This happens often throughout the story and I know this was done for the reader to understand how the mystery connected to the carousel came to be.

I found this too tiring and rhythm breaking... I'd have preferred for the author to stick to the present time, to exploit this better, especially Cady and those she interacts with now, and the past information to come in a different way, because it got to a point I felt there too many distractions and I lost some interest here and there. Certain things also became rather obvious so to keep delaying that from the present moment and having parcels here, then another information there just felt like repetitive.

Cady is a complex character and not only because she was in the foster system, her whole behavior and personality felt multilayered. I so wished she could be seen falling in love and how this would affect her perception of even her surroundings, especially as she learned about the lives of those involved in the carousel making, I thought this would be one of the author's goals, but there are some things about Cady which were mentioned but went nowhere, in terms of characterization or in how that would affect the relationships with others, not only a romantic one.

I liked she was so happy while photographing and that she cherished her rabbit so much for the sentimental value mostly, and I liked how she got to so easily be part of the French community of people she stayed near while investigating the carousel. I can only imagine the idea it to show how rewarding her life there could be and how happy she could be with the guy she becomes involved with and those she gets to befriend while there.

Suppositions, for while we do know how the carousel story came to be, the end is too open and vague for me to feel we actually have closure on Cady's journeys (both the emotional the the physical in France). Sure, i can think about scenarios in my head but I do wish the author had been bolder, more obvious in what her intentions had been in how this story would play out. I think this one ends up being a little weaker in that sense, for me, comparing to the other book. This was a nice book but not as amazing as I've certainly pictured when I started reading.
Grade: 6/10

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