The narrator of this coming of age novel, Christian Aragan, is seventeen and about to finish high school. His geography teacher, Vivienne Pleyden is age twenty-four. The time of the novel is mostly just after WWI.
Vivienne's husband is Stephane Pleyben, an abusive man who beat her so often, it was normal to see her at school, with make-up attempting to cover her bruises. There was an occasion when Christian was a young boy when he noticed Stephane about to strike Vivienne while in the Village Square. When he saw that he was observed by Christian, he pretended to be doing something else.
Perhaps becoming a man means being able to express yourself and your own thoughts concerning your future.
Christian's older brother, Eugene, was killed during the war. Christian seems to view the war as a time when heroes were made and cowards discovered. While Eugene was killed during a battle, Stephane saw that conscription was eminent and disappeared.
There are conflicts underneath the skin of this village, such as between the local priest, a Jesuit, who preaches hell and damnation and is seen by Christian as a fraud. There is also the conflict between Christian and his father, who assumes that Christian will take over the family vineyards in the future. We also observe the difficulties between Vivienne and her husband. All of these problem relationships are magnified when seen in the apparent serenity of Provence and the fields of grapes and warm sunshine.
Christian and Vivienne become lovers and an incident occurs that was perhaps ordained when Christian was a young boy and received a cut with a knife by another child at his school.
This is a warm story of enduring love and devotion beautifully told full of images and characters who will remain in the reader's memory.
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