Reviewing The Pleasing Hour by Lily King
As a Francophile, and author of my own book set in France (The Punishment), I love reading books set in France, but I am also fairly critical of them if they don’t quite catch the mood of the country. It is for this reason that I so enjoyed The Pleasing Hour by Lily King. I think King captured the French ethos well. Set partly in Paris, and party in the South of France in a town called Plaire, and with a sojourn to Spain, the story follows Rosie as she joins a family as their “fille” (au pair) after escaping a loss of her own.
Though not much actually happens in the book (if you’re looking for a bodice ripper or a page-turner with cliff-hangers, this isn’t for you, and even I could have done with a bit more action), the characters are drawn with empathy and depth. King also manages to capture the feeling of “dépaysement” one experiences when speaking in a foreign language in a foreign country; the disconnect between tongue and thoughts.
As Rosie gets to know the family, her language and comprehension grow, as do her feelings for the father of the house, Marc. In their understanding of each other, she becomes a conduit between Marc and his wife Nicole, enabling a change in their marriage.
The book is beautifully written and excellently observed. Perhaps the plot could have been tidied up a tad, and a bit of the backstory cut, but King expresses herself well enough, that you might not actually mind some of her unnecessary tangents.