A GIFT FROM BRITTANY by Marjorie Price


A Memoir of Love and Loss in the French Countryside
Email this review


Debut memoirist Price regales us with Life Lessons learned from a rustic Yoda named Jeanne.

In 1960, the 28-year-old author left Chicago to pursue her dream of painting in Paris. There, she married a mercurial, dashing and charismatic French artist who imperiously carried her off to a ruined hamlet in a region of Brittany that seemed little altered since the Middle Ages. Approaching the area, Price declares, she had “a sinking feeling at the pit of my stomach”—and thus begins a long array of clichés that sag on the slender threads of her sentences like wet wash on a fraying clothesline. Fears evaporate, people work feverishly, disasters are averted, dreams are fitful, feelings sweep over her, partings are bittersweet. Her story also follows a predictable path. As she became more attached to the property her husband had impulsively bought, he morphed into a monster. He was the real artist in the family, he told her; he forbid her to paint and destroyed her work when he found she’d been painting surreptitiously. Price separated from the lout and raised their daughter alone. But the real heroine here, she avers, is her elderly friend Jeanne. Most of the text celebrates, even beatifies, the actions of this local Earth Mother. After a pitchfork-wielding Jeanne arrived in the nick of time to save the author from a group of drunken laborers trying to rape her, the two became fast friends. Although Price put away her paints for a while, she eventually got them out again, moved to Italy and found success—but never forgot Jeanne. Apparently, she also hasn’t forgotten a single word of their conversations from 40 years ago.

Stickily sentimental and often unconvincing—more a memorial than a memoir.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-592-40350-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Gotham Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2008