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The Pleasing Hour


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About the Author

Lily King received a Master's Degree in Creative Writing from Syracuse University in 1991 and won the Raymond Carver Prize for Fiction. In 1995 she received a fellowship from the MacDowe Colony. Her short fiction has been published in numerous literary magazines in the USA and in Passport, a literary magazine based in Cambridge. She lives in New York.


A year in France brings a young American new reserves of sympathy and maturity in this poised, accomplished first novel. Nineteen-year-old Rosie, King's sensitive narrator, arrives in Paris on the first day of the school year, set for her job as the Tivot family's au pair. The other au pairs (in French usage, filles) are cosmopolitan students drawn to French culture. Rosie, however, has come here to flee her past: she became pregnant as a deliberate act of charity, giving up her baby so her infertile sister could have a child. But that decision has only heightened her omnipresent sense of loss. Her months with the Tivot family on their houseboat bring her new and difficult human connections: to the inquisitive, needy 12-year-old Lola and her younger brother, Guillaume; to their unhappy, astringent mother, Nicole; and to their father, Marc, with whom the reserved Rosie gradually falls in love. After Lola catches Rosie and Marc holding hands on a family trip to Spain, Rosie is sent to a small town in Provence to care for Nicole's Aunt Lucie, in her 90s. In chapters interspersed with Rosie's own story, Aunt Lucie fills in the background of Nicole's family, a grim account of inheritance and treachery during WWII. Expertly constructed, full of surprises, superbly paced and sweetly sad, King's book hardly reads like a first novel; her skilled observation and careful narrative voice prevent the wartime plot from seeming sensational, and keeps Rosie's saga of melodrama. In fact, the seamless integration of theme, plot and voice produces a rare sense of intimacy. Rosie's final discoveries about France, about families and about herself through Lucie, Lola and Nicole take her on an inward journey readers will feel privileged to share. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

As a senior in high school, Rosie deliberately becomes pregnant in order to give Sarah, her sad, barren, married sister, the baby she craves. To hide her own deep grief at this sacrifice, Rosie leaves America to become an au pair to a wealthy French family. The children include nine-year-old Guillaume, driven by an unsettling urge to become a priest; Odile, who at 16 is beyond Rosie's care and struggling with her uncertain sexuality; and 12-year-old Lola, who seeks from Rosie the warmth that Nicole, the children's mother, is unable to give. In gentle, elegant prose, first novelist King slowly unravels the complicated pose Nicole strikes with those who love and fear her. Using Rosie as a buffer in her chilly marriage, Nicole seems oddly liberated when the inevitable happens, forcing Rosie to flee to the home of Nicole's beloved dying Aunt Lucie, whose waning health transfers a life-affirming strength to Rosie as she faces her future head-on. King has taken some unusual elements and worked them into a believable, beautifully etched tale of people who, scarred by their past, are now trying to get it right. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/99.]ÄBeth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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