Saturday 29 April 2017

Review: Popular fiction: French Secrets by Roisin McAuley

Sphere, £12.99

Roisin McAuley's latest book spans half a century -- from 1944 to 1994 -- and is centred around wine-making.

Moonbeam Star, known to her friends as Melanie, is the daughter of a hippy couple. Her father forgot to return from Woodstock and her mother went off to find herself, so little Melanie was raised by her grandparents.

Now in her 20s, Melanie is studying wine and working in a winery in California. When her grandfather has a heart attack, he reveals a secret he's been keeping since he was shot down in France during the war: He fathered a child with the young girl who rescued him. The child was a boy, and Melanie is intrigued by the existence of this French uncle and sets off to find him.

In England, Irish girl Honor Brady falls in love with wine merchant Hugo, who whisks her off to his chateau in the Languedoc.

But Hugo is obsessed with his rare wines and Honor is left to her own devices, which leads to her meeting Didier, whose family once owned Hugo's chateau. And this family is connected to Melanie's uncle.

As the two women's lives become entwined, a web of deceit over many decades is uncovered. This denouement ultimately brings about happiness for both women and throws up an unexpected ending.

There is a timeless quality to McAuley's writing. She knows how to tell a good story with carefully drawn characters, a charming setting and insights into the wine business. If you're off to France this summer, this is the one to take with you.

Ann Dunne

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