Despite the fact that I rarely read poems, I am a fool for the novels of poets, hence the attraction of Daisy Lafarges Paul, who also promised a joint trip to France, somewhere where, in reality, I probably will not visit for some time. Lafarge’s debut spans four weeks of a hot summer and follows Frances, who volunteered to work on a sustainable farm in the Pyrenees after leaving Paris under a cloud. Further, in the distance, the Earth bends again into mountains, light purple, which bite into the horizon like a series of delicate teeth.
Frances worked as a research assistant for the professor who supervised her dissertation at home in the UK. She is a medieval historian who is attracted to Paul’s farm in part because it is located near a beautiful cathedral. Paul arrives after to meet her and not quite what she expected. He is eager to tell her about his travels in the South Pacific, immortalized in a series of photographs that he proudly shows her and that he calls an anthropologist instead of a farmer.
He introduces them to his friends, all Blow-Ins with a colorful past. Over the course of the week, the excessive familiarity that has made Frances uncomfortable with Paul becomes an assumption of intimacy she cannot resist. She addresses Paul when his next voluntary commitment ends prematurely. He takes her on a road trip from the Alpes-Maritimes to the Pyrenees and visits old friends, each of whom seems a little distant from Paul, until one of them warns Frances that she can no longer be mistaken.
The conversations, glances and random touches of a week float around in my head. I feel like the events of my time here were out of my control, a succession of waves breaking over me.
Lafarge confirms the Gauguin link indicated by the beautiful cover and the title of her novel in her acknowledgements that tell us that she resorted to the artist’s Tahitian Diaries. Decades older than Frances, Paul is controlling yet exuberant, eager to cover her with love, in a way that would immediately lead to warning signs for a more experienced and less vulnerable woman. Frances flees an incident with her superior that, after collapsing shortly before the end of her thesis, is never fully explained. Lafarge tells her novel from Frances ‘ point of view, referring to her past rather than explaining it explicitly, so that we get the impression of a naive young woman who does not understand what is happening to her, although some of the people she meets are stunned.inability to take control of your own life. It’s a powerful story, but the most enjoyable aspect for me was Lafarge’s evocation of the French landscape in beautiful descriptive language. A beautifully expressed novel, sometimes unpleasant to read.