Here is a remarkable story (told by an unnamed Englishman, sharing with the reader his memories of the long summer of 1951, which he spent as an adolescent in a small French village straddling the Belgian frontier) of a family largely made up of women. Strong, resilient, loving and compassionate women of varied temperaments across 2 generations. They are "the Aunts", who, along with an "Uncle" and a host of relations, eagerly welcome the English adolescent (who, thanks to his mother, was already passably conversant in French) into the fullness of their lives.
The matriarch of the family is the eldest, Tante Yvonne, who is in her mid-80s and has devoted her life to her siblings and community. "She radiated calm and authority. Small, almost squat, she moved slowly with the help of a silver-capped cane. Her expression was usually kindly, but her hooded eyes were full of intelligence and wit, and her glance was still penetrating." No shrinking violet, she.
The author proceeds to tell the reader, chapter by chapter, about some of the colorful characters who constitute the heart and soul of this book. In this way, the reader becomes a part of the great old house in which the family resides and is witness to a community on the cusp of change in the early postwar world.
When I began to read this book, I confess I wasn't sure I'd like it. But as I read deeper into it, I became enchanted and fascinated with the various family members, whom the author made flesh in my imagination with a dazzling economy of words. Anyone in search of a well-written, poignant, and at turns funny and endearing story need look no further. You'll savor the experience.