The year is 1960 and 28 year old Marjorie Price decides to do the unthinkable for that time. She buys herself a ticket on a ship, on which she plans to travel alone, to France. Her parents are upset as is her boyfriend but Marjorie is a painter and she feels Paris is the one place she belongs – with other artists and painters. Besides she’s only going to go for a few months to see what it’s like and do some painting. A Gift from Brittany by Marjorie Price: A Memoir of Love and Loss in the French Countryside is a memoir of her journey through this time.
Well Marjorie (Midge) does not stay for only a few months. She ends up meeting a dashing Frenchman, Yves, a painter as well, and they marry. Later they have a daughter Danielle and all seems well. They’ve always dreamed of having a place in the country though and without Midge’s consent Yves agrees to buy La Salle. Midge isn’t thrilled with the place; it turns out to be a hamlet of 7 houses not a cozy cottage somewhere. After a while though she sees the charm of the place and begins to adjust to life in this small village community. A lot of hard work goes into restoring La Salle, most of it Midge’s as Yves is busy doing things for himself.
Here is a picture of La Salle as Midge saw it when she first arrived. Imagine how overwhelming it would be to see this ramshackle place and know you live there now – no running water, no bathrooms, etc.
Now, a picture of La Salle after it was restored. I think it’s beautiful. Marjorie’s writing is so vivid and descriptive that you feel that La Salle is a part of you once your done reading about it. One thing is sure you would definitely want to visit this little community for yourself.
Things were going smoothly enough in the beginning. Yves had his studio for painting and so did Midge. Yves though, was beginning to show another side to his personality; one that was not good. Yves has always been controlling to an extent; making all the decisions but he begins to spiral out of control at La Salle demanding that Midge quit painting and devote her time to being his wife – there can be only one painter in the family and that was presumably him. Midge continues to paint in secret until Yves finds out and really gets angry. From there Midge realizes that they can no longer be together.
Another huge part of this story is the relationship between Midge and Jeanne, a woman in her late 60’s who has lived in the village her whole life. She has lived with no running water, no bathroom, no television or radio – has never even been a few miles further than her home. Yet this woman who has no world experience to speak off teaches Midge so many things and one of the biggest is the importance of friendship. They become very close, sharing everything. Jeanne calls Midge the daughter she never had and Midge does what she can to make Jeanne’s life more comfortable. Jeanne helps Midge to understand she is worth so much more than Yves has led her to feel. She tells her…
This story for me was an emotional one. I really connected with Marjorie in terms of what she went through in her relationship with Yves. It’s difficult to live in a relationship where your partner strives to control everything and when they can’t, become angry. Worse yet you still love this person even while realizing it can never be. I could feel her pain, her uncertainty, and also her pride when she realized she could get by on her own. She could make it and she could be who and what she wanted to be – a painter – and there wasn’t anyone who could tell her any different.
As well the relationship between Jeanne and Midge was wonderful to read about. I really liked both of these women but you instantly feel love toward Jeanne even though you’ve never met her. She lived a rough life from the time she was a child yet never complained about her lot in life. To her, it was life, and you lived it and got by. Many of us could learn so much from her. I would have loved to have met her myself. I keep seeing her brandishing her pitchfork and it makes me smile.
This is a wonderful memoir of an important time in Midge’s life. She takes us out of our modern world into a time gone by. A time where people didn’t know how to read and write, they grew their own food and slaughtered their own animals. Yet even with the hardships of life in this small community, people found happiness. She also shows us how two people with seemingly nothing in common forge a friendship so strong that it transcends time.
I read A Gift from Brittany by Marjorie Price for her book tour. You can purchase A Gift from Brittany for yourself here in the US and here in Canada. Be sure to visit Marjorie Price’s website as well and check out her paintings! Make sure to stop by tomorrow as Marjorie will be joining us at Peeking Between the Pages with a guest post.
My thanks…to Diane Saarinen for inviting me on this book tour and the publisher Gotham Books for sending me my review copy of A Gift from Brittany by Marjorie Price.