If you read Susan Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue, you will know why I jumped at the chance for an advance reading copy of Lisette’s List. (If you didn’t you might want to rush out and find a copy to read while you wait for the release date of Lisette’s List on August 26.)
I have a great partiality for well-researched historical fiction in the hands of a good story-teller. This book fits both parts of that description. Parisienne Lisette reluctantly leaves the city she loves with her husband Andre to follow the call of her husband’s dying grandfather Pascal in the rural village of Roussillon.
Neither of them could have predicted what the reader anticipates in the 1937 date at the beginning of chapter one about the war that is ahead and what it might do to their lives. Part of Lisette’s coping with change is list-making. As a habitual list-maker, I empathize.
Lisette becomes a ready listener to Pascal’s stories and his lessons in art. His lessons lead her to add Item 4 to her list, “Learn what makes a painting great.” Early foreshadowing of things to come are in Pascal’s words, “When something changes your life, Lisette, you remember everything. Someday you’ll see.”
Well-rounded fictional characters populate the worlds of Paris and the rural village of Roussillon. Real world political and art figures from World War II add realistic background along with a mystery about where Andre hid his grandfather’s cherished paintings before he went off to war.
The reader sees Lisette’s appreciation of her new world as she remains in the village learning to live the rural life and knows she can soon check off item 12, “Learn how to be self-sufficient.” One of my favorite glimpses of her spirit is her wonder at her own good fortune in the midst of difficulty as she receives a painting done expressly for her. I’ll not spoil the story by telling what internationally know artist painted it. I found the way this part of the story unfolded and its lingering presence for the rest of the book intriguing.
I liked this book for much more than her frequent mention of my favorite pastry when we lived in France - pain au chocolat. In fact, that part just made me hungry. There may be a stop at C’est la Vie, our authentic French bakery right here in Hattiesburg, in my near future. I recommend the book, perhaps read with a cup of coffee and bit of French pastry at hand.