Fresh Water for Flowers by Valerie Perrin

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I loved this one from the moment I started reading.

Violette is fantastic. She has such a story to share. There is sadness to it, but for some reason it’s not really all that sad and depressing, it’s more like compelling and wonderful reading.

When we first meet Violette she’s been on her own for many years enjoyably working in “her” cemetery and we hear the contentment from her in the people she sits with daily and her job the joy and attention she gives to her job as the cemetery keeper.

Throughout, she references people by their birth and death dates on their graves and I loved that so much – it always brought a smile to my face. Every time.

“Gabriel Prudent? Gabriel Prudent, 1931-2009. He’s buried on avenue 19, in the Cedars section.”

“I’m just sipping my tea and spreading my biscottes with salted butter and strawberry jam, given to me by Suzanne Clerc, whose husband (1933-2007) is buried in the Cedars section.”

The translation here is sublime. And truly, all the characters, their stories, their reasons for visiting or not visiting the tombs of their loved ones – again, just wonderful to read. It was all very effortless, so a nod to the translation for sure.

“I didn’t know this man. But the way some people looked at his grave makes me think he was kind.”

There were always pops of poignancy like that one above to delight!

“Tomorrow, there’s a burial at 4 p.m. A new resident for my cemetery. A man of fifty-five, died from smoking too much. Well, that’s what the doctors said. They never say that a man of fifty-five can die from not having been loved, not having been heard, getting too many bills, buying too much on credit, seeing his children grow up and leave home without really saying goodbye. A life of reproach, a life of grimacing….No one ever says that you can die from having been too fed up, too often.”

There is however A LOT going on in here. There are a good number of other stories that branch out from Violette’s – they are connected to her in some way, and there are many different things going on, including a little mystery – but for me, it all worked out very well. I was completely captivated by this story. I loved reading about Violette! She is quite the woman! We hear about her birth, how she taught herself to read, how she experiences her unbelievable joy of motherhood, the sorrow of a deadbeat husband, the ache and sorrow of loss, but is now happily and with great content living as the cemetery keeper, where every morning her motley gang from the cemetery share stories over coffee.

It’s such a great story about love, loss, grief and finding your way through the darkness of grief. But overall there is just something so very heartwarming inside, it really is more of a story about love, being in love and living. The anecdotal notes about funerals and inscriptions on tombstones really make it shine. It brought smiles to my face and it was always something I wanted to keep reading. Sorry, it’s not out until June (I was able to read thanks to Netgalley and Europa Editions) but I hope you keep it in mind and get the chance to read it! I’m sure you’ll love Violette and her story.