Sensual is the best description of Annie Vanderbilt's novel, The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti. It's not the type of novel I normally read, since my favorite novels are ones that have a strong character. But, this story has a memorable character, as well as vivid descriptions that appeal to all of the senses.
Lily Crisp is a 52-year-old widow who has returned to the French village in the south of France, where she spent twenty summers in her husband's family home, while he spent summers in Idaho. Her son and daughter will join her shortly, but the month in La Pierre Rouge, the Red Stone house, is her opportunity to look back at her life.
Lily is living in her memories, putting them on paper with the help of Madame Olivetti, her old typewriter. Together, the two remember Lily's sensual life, a life of color, vivid descriptions of Wisconsin, Idaho, Mexico, and, most of all, France. The book is filled with sound and lyrical descriptions of the sea and land. As Lily reassesses her life, she brings her love to life. She's a vibrant woman, comfortable with her own sexuality. But, she's not comfortable with some of the decisions she made in life, and, before moving on, she wants to examine her past.
In her debut novel, Annie Vanderbilt succeeded in creating an honest, memorable character in Lily Crisp. The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti does have the strong character I love, but Vanderbilt's writing offers a memorable setting and story as well. Reach for this book to satisfy all of your senses, as it's filled with music, laughter, food, color, and sensuality.
The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti by Annie Vanderbilt. Penguin Group, Inc., ©2008. ISBN 9780451225276 (paperback), 304p.