In Paris, the flame haired, green eyed Violaine is the head of the Reading Room, a place where books are sent to be considered for publication. When a book called Sugar Flowers is chosen, it becomes a sensation, but the author appears to have gone missing. And there may be a connection between the book, a murder, and Violaine.
This book is a French book translated into English and it’s quite a slim book. I read it in one sitting, partly because it isn’t long and partly because I loved it so much.
First of all, Violaine, with her sharp tongue and an air of mystery, is a really interesting protagonist. Since the book is short and it’s a great read, I don’t want to say too much about her in case it spoils anything. But she is so wonderful because we get a sense of her and how she navigates life, and then start to learn more about her. This is so perfectly timed, just little titbits that keep you intrigued and turning pages. I loved her, adn each little revelation kept me guessing.
Secondly, I love all the descriptions of the Reading Room itself. Wooden accents, up a flight of stairs, stacked with books and manuscripts. It sounds like a dream to me. And the people who work there under Violaine are all well delineated characters. I liked them all, with their various foibles and talents. It was such a lovely world to step into. The book also opens with some descriptions of writers and the publishing world that’s very wry and funny.
Actually, while I’d say that this book is a mystery at heart, it is also quite humorous. I loved the way the author created Violaine with her labelling of people as “insects” if they displease her. Another character is blind and has handsome men read books to her. The situations in the book are often kind of funny too. It’s not a laugh out loud funny. It’s a sense of warm humor and insightfulness about people and a sense of lightness in the overall tone. It’s really nice, because this is a mystery at heart, and so there is a little darkness at the heart of this book. It’s a nice balance. It’s got a cozy mystery feel, but that never distracts from it’s sharpness.
I think there’s also something slightly fairytale about it too, with it’s love of books, a person who falls in love at first sight, and a few of the things that happen have a slightly heightened feel. It also mentions “sugar flowers” which are slightly significant in this book. Google sugar sculpture if you’ve never seen these. They are truly magical creations.
This is a thin book, but it moves forward nicely. It has a sense of humour, a good sense of character creation and character types. It’s been a while since I’ve read a French author, and I enjoyed this so much, I will be keeping an eye out for more from Antoine Laurain.
Read It If: highly recommended. This is cozy, bookish but also mysterious and page turning. Can’t wait to get my hands on more from this author.
Thank you PGC Books for the advance copy of this book for review, all opinions are, as always, my own honest thoughts.
The Readers’ Room is out October 2nd.