Published by Doubleday on June 6, 2017
Source: the publisher
Narrator: Katharine McEwan
Length: 9 hours, 0 minutes
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A French Wedding is a delicious novel about six college friends reuniting on the coast of Brittany to celebrate one of their own's fortieth birthday. With sumptuous food and plenty of wine, the table is set for tricky romantic entanglements, fiery outbursts, and a range of secrets. Readers who loved The Vacationers and The Little Paris Bookshop will devour this irresistible novel.
Max is a washed-up rock star who's about to turn forty and feeling nostalgic for his university days. All he says he wants for his birthday is to host his old friends at his house in the French countryside for a weekend of good food and reminiscing. But he has an ulterior motive: Finally ready to settle down, this is his chance to declare his undying love to his best friend, Helen.
Max's private chef, Juliette, has just returned to her hometown after a nasty breakup and her parents' failing health move her to sell her dream restaurant in Paris. Still reeling, Juliette throws herself into her job, hoping that the peace and quiet it offers will be the perfect cure for her broken heart.
But when Max's friends arrive, the introverted, dreamy Juliette finds herself drawn out of her orderly kitchen and into their tumultuous relationships. A weekend thinking about the past spurs more than one emotional crisis, as the friends take stock of whether they've lived up to their ideals. Together for the first time in years, it's not long before love triangles, abandoned dreams, and long-held resentments bubble over, culminating in a wedding none of them ever expected.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I didn’t like A French Wedding by Hannah Tunnicliffe as much as I wanted to. It had a ton of promise, but it didn’t just deliver.
I love stories with long-time friends coming together again. In this case, a group of college friends are meeting back at the home of Max to celebrate his fortieth birthday. So there is to be a weekend of reminiscing and celebrating, and somehow or another, a wedding will occur at some point because there is a wedding in the prologue.
Max is hosting his own birthday celebration as a chance to reconnect with his friends. As the synopsis indicates, Max has an additional plan which is to make one of his friends aware that he loves her and always has. Max also has a personal chef – Juliette – who is in the absolute perfect position to be in the background while everyone is talking and mingling and catching up on life. She is able to overhear drama and all of the secrets while she moves around serving dinner and chopping vegetables and refilling drinks, and since she is able to overhear snippets of story from everyone in the group, Juliette is privy to quite a bit of knowledge. This aspect of the story was fun for me.
Also fun for me was the food aspect of the story, as Juliette was very into French cuisine and there were many descriptions of the food she served, the ingredients she used, and bread she made. It was mouthwatering, really.
If Juliette would have stayed within her role as personal chef, I think I’d have liked this book more. But somehow, over the course of just a few days, Juliette enmeshed herself with this group. Or maybe she thought she did. Because there was a point where she wasn’t really “peeping in” on the guests anymore, she was hanging out with them and interacting with them. This isn’t a bad thing in terms of real people living real lives, but it made this story less interesting.
Since characterization is important: these characters aren’t terribly interesting. I found it really hard to care about them. I tried to, I really did. But I found them a little flatter than I wanted to, than they needed to be for such a character-driven story. I didn’t really mind that they ALL had big issues and problems (because who doesn’t?) and I didn’t mind that they were almost all unlikable. I don’t even mind that there isn’t much resolution to some of their issues during the course of this book because this is just a small look into their lives, a weekend. (Example: Max is depressed, drinks too much, does too many drugs.) But I think when you add all of their issues, don’t resolve them, and make them unlikable too – without fully robust, interesting characters: this doesn’t add up to me being able to make a connection in a character-driven book.
Finally, there is an event that happens toward the end of the book that comes out of nowhere and really changes the course of the entire story. I honestly didn’t care for it. I had a hard time focusing on the story after this because literally everything veered from the central plot, which was Max’s birthday and the events that were happening at his weekend celebration. The central focus changed to this other character and drama that unfolded as a result of the behavior that went down unexpectedly. I’m just going to stop right here about this because I’m being so vague so I won’t spoil it, but from this point until the end, the book was a huge disappointment.
I appreciate that a few of the loose ends were tied up, but ultimately I feel like I don’t know what happened with a few of the main characters because I wasn’t able to interpret that ending. After the big, twisty thing that happened, I really needed some sort of closure to these friends’ weekend together.
I really wanted to love A French Wedding. I think there was promise with the characterization and with Juliette’s character, who changed over the course of the book — but I just wasn’t a fan of how all of this was executed. I’m sad that I’m not even 100% sure who got married. This just wasn’t the “friends reconnecting” story for me.
I grabbed the audiobook from the library to listen to so I could see what the pronunciation of the French words sounds like. The audiobook is narrated by Katharine McEwan, who has many audio titles to her name. She has a lovely voice and it was so neat to hear her say the French words, particularly the names of the French foods. That was my favorite thing about the audiobook.
But I ultimately abandoned the audiobook because the narrator gave the one American character a twang (or maybe a drawl?) that I couldn’t listen to anymore. It changed and became more pronounced? overdone? over the course of the book and by the end, I was noticing the narration instead of paying attention to the story. So the audiobook had to go.