GABRIELLE by Agnes Short


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The courting, marital, and briefly adulterous adventures of an English/French girl in 1870s Paris and Burgundy--with a veritable jeroboam of detail concerning wine culture. Because of the keyhole peeping of her employer, Gabrielle West stomps out of her genteel governess job in Paris, choosing Montmartre poverty--even though her English father is a wealthy purveyor of water closets. And, after an encounter with magnetic Impressionist artist Patrice Le Brun (""I see you naked with lilacs""), Gabrielle will soon be posing in the altogether--but she marries Paul de Chardon, a would-be poet from an aristocratic wine-growing clan, crushed by family obligations when his father shoots himself ""because of the phylloxera"" (vine louse). Off to the Chateau and the barren fields, then, go the newlyweds--only to find that Madame de Chardon, expecting Paul to marry into Good Family, is furious. Furthermore, Paul is depressed; debts are growing. Still, despite the Family's disapproval, Gabrielle sets out to learn all about grape culture from old vigneron Jean-Baptiste; she soon takes charge, is responsible for retaining workers, sees that the new plantings will be from illegal, louse-resistant foreign stock; the vineyards start coming back after four years; daughter Estelle is born; and belle mere's attitude toward Gabrietle is at last more belle than bellicose. Unfortunately, however, Paul is into booze, opium--and jealous rages. So, when Patrice Le Brun reappears amongst the grape baskets at harvest time, Gabrielle becomes a new woman. . . with a new baby (from livelier stock) on the way. A demure enough romance, notwithstanding the gaspings among the grapes--enlivened or slowed to a walk, depending on reader interest in the subject, with masses of vintner's lore.

Pub Date: Dec. 28th, 1984
Publisher: Beaufort