Framboise's tale starts decades ago, in the village of Les Laveuses during the German occupation of France. Masterfully, she tells us about her childhood, playing along the river Loire with her brother Cassis, her sister Reinette, and her childhood friend Paul. She describes her obsession with catching Old Mother, the large pike rumored to curse anyone who sets eyes on it, but if caught will make your wish come true. Days are long, but happy until the darkness that is their mother envelops them.
Framboise's mother, Mirabelle Dartigen, is a widow struggling to keep the family orchard going after her husband is killed in the war. She's a stern, unyielding woman who is plagued by intense migraines that start with her smelling oranges, real or imagined. She is not loving or comforting to her children and that's why Framboise feels no shame in hiding orange peels around the house to help trigger one of her mother's migraines. The quiet, idle time while their mother recuperates is one they look forward to.
But just how do they spend their days alone? And with whom are they secretly meeting? And how does this mystery figure play into the war, the deaths of 10 people in the town, and the public outcry of the rest of the townsfolk while at Framboise's door with torches and rocks? And why, after 55 years, is Framboise still desperate to hang onto this secret?
The tragedy that weaves itself throughout this book will have you turning page after page to get to the end of the mystery that is Mirabelle Dartigen, and maybe more importantly, who is Framboise.
An excellently crafted story that flashes subtly from present day Les Laveuses to past, Joanne Harris is an author whom I have never read, but am now eager to explore. 4/5 Stars