An impoverished noblewoman falls in love while trying to cultivate the first scarlet rose—in a moving and intelligently rendered first novel about the French Revolution as experienced in the provinces.
In short, crisp chapters and impeccably elegant prose, Australian writer de Kretser depicts three sisters and their father struggling to survive as their world falls apart when political treachery and revolutionary terror invade even their quiet corner of the countryside. The story begins on July 14, 1789, when handsome American artist Stephen Fletcher falls from his balloon into the fields of the Saint-Pierre family. Widowed father Jean-Baptiste, eldest daughter Claire, 22-year-old Sophie, and precocious 8-year-old Mathilde make Stephen welcome on a day that will change their lives—and France—forever. Sophie, whose solace lies in the growing of roses, finds herself futilely attracted to Stephen, who falls in love with Claire, who is married to a wealthy but boorish noble. Jean-Baptiste, a gourmet and magistrate, is in favor of the revolution, but as democratic ideals give way to The Terror, he begins to worry about his daughters’ safety. By 1793, the Saint-Pierres’ village in Gascony will be controlled by a ruthless ideologue bent on exterminating every so-called enemy of the revolution, however innocent; and, as the guillotinings accelerate, Joseph Morel, a physician and a revolutionary with a conscience, will fall in love with Sophie and be encouraged by her father to press his suit. But love and happiness for the Saint Pierre sisters are subject to the times—in this case, times that may not be particularly hospitable to the ordinary joys of everyday life.
Memorable people, a touching love story, and history brought alive by a talented newcomer.