I have to start this post by saying how grateful I am to Isabelle over at Gallic Books for having me on this tour, and for gifting me this wonderful book.
I loved The Elegance of the Hedgehog so much that I couldn’t resist this one! Huge Muriel fan here!!
Having read it in French I can also only praise Alison Anderson for a fabulous translation.
The temples and teahouses of Kyoto are the scene of a Frenchwoman’s emotional awakening in the stunning fifth novel by international bestseller Muriel Barbery.
Rose has turned 40, but has barely begun to live. When the Japanese father she never knew dies and she finds herself an orphan, she leaves France for Kyoto to hear the reading of his will.
In the days before Haru’s last wishes are revealed, his former assistant, Paul, takes Rose on a tour of the temples, gardens and eating places of this unfamiliar city. Initially a reluctant tourist and awkward guest in her late father’s home, Rose gradually comes to discover Haru’s legacy through the itinerary he set for her, finding gifts greater than she had ever imagined.
This stunning novel from international bestseller Muriel Barbery is a mesmerising story of second chances, of beauty born out of grief and roses grown from ashes.
“A single rose is every rose”
This short beauty (only 140 pages!) is a philosophical prowess: it forces you to question and reflect on so many different aspects that it puts you in a state of transcendence…
I’m not going to lie the first time I read it I wasn’t sure, so I read it again, in a calm and solitary manner, far away from all possible distractions, and then, it simply hit me.
What a powerful and beautiful read! Utterly thought provoking, and pure poetry, Muriel’s style is, as always, stunning and I can’t praise her enough!
So cleverly crafted, this book is a wonderful ode to Japan, with each chapter beginning by a Japanese tale, somehow matching Rose’s own journey in this unknown country.
Rose is such a grabbing character, enigmatic botanist, she has a very skewed and warped version of life and of herself. You dive into her psyche and the incredible journey she embarks on.
She flies to Kyoto to hear the reading of her father’s, Haru, will. Little did she know that he’d asked his assistant, Paul, to take her round on a tour of the city, and that this tour will trigger a rift in her.
“How many people ever come to know their father through the child he once was?”
She never had a father in her life, but somehow there’s always been a link between them that she will get to discover. By following the path he wished for her through the temples, she gets to familiarise herself with his legacy, whilst freeing herself of the shackles of her existence.
Full of compelling metaphors, allegories and other “figures de style“, this beautiful and touching story is bound to make you question your life and beyond… “If a person is not ready to suffer, they are not ready to live” that’s quite something to think about…
Similarly to a flower, Rose will feel her corolla grow, expand, in the hope of anchoring some roots. As she goes from temple to temple, meet extraordinary people who knew her father, she manages to distance herself from this unhappiness that grabbed her one day and never left, from her mother’s melancholy and sorrow that clearly defined her, from the absence she’s always lived with.
“You have to die a first time in order to be truly born”.
Rose’s voyage pushes grief and mourning to the forefront of the mind. To discover who she is, she has to embrace what she has lost: grieving the loss of her mother, her grandmother, the death of her father, along with the missed opportunity of ever having a relationship with him, the loss of her childhood, of who she once was… acceptance is the key but it isn’t a painless task for a person who has never allowed themselves to feel.
From the food to people and places, the experience is far from anodyne. Muriel’s divine words will transport you to this foreign and spiritual land, through time, space and memory, unlocking feelings alongside Rose.
There is so much more that I could say but I do not want to spoil this lyrical wonder for you! The only way is to pick up a copy (why not directly there to support Gallic Books, it’s out on 23rd of September : https://belgraviabooks.com/product/a-single-rose) and experience it for yourself.
When I finished it the second time, it left me the opposite of speechless… in need of discoursing on, dissecting and analysing it!
So when you pick it up, please, please write to me to discuss it! I can’t wait to know what everyone else thinks!
I will simply leave you with what I might refer to as my favorite quote (but there are just so many to choose from that triggered something in me that I cannot be certain) “the mere fact of being alive means that all the risks have already been taken”.
–About the Author – Muriel Barbery–
Muriel Barbery is a former lecturer in philosophy and the author of four previous novels, including the IMPAC-shortlisted multimillion-copy bestseller The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Published in France in 2006 and in the UK in 2008, the novel was translated in 44 countries, selling more than 10 million copies worldwide, and was described by Le Figaro as ‘the publishing phenomenon of the decade’. Muriel drew on her own experience of living in Kyoto, where she was a writer in residence at the Villa Kujoyama for two years. She has also lived in Amsterdam and Paris and now lives in the French countryside.
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