A French Tale Filled with Modern Ideas
There are books you just dive into head first. Whether it's the subject matter, the writing or the feeling of familiarity with the story, something about that book grabs hold and lingers long after you are finished reading. Sara Cassidy’s new book Nevers did just that for me. Upon reading the description of the story I was intrigued and after reading the prologue I was completely enraptured.
Nevers is the story of young Odette and her mother Anneline set in France in 1799. A family who uproot frequently owing to Anneline’s fondness for drama. When they arrive in Nevers, Odette finally begins to feel comfortable, making friends and finally feeling part of a community, an eccentric community but one nonetheless. The story takes the reader on a journey filled with enchantment as Odette learns the meaning of home and the power or community.
Sara Cassidy’s lyrical writing is completely captivating. The language and flow of the story gives it a dreamy quality, you cannot help arrive in Nevers yourself in your own sabot (wooden shoes) waiting for M. Mains to come around the corner and ask to smell your hands. This story is incredibly quirky adding to its incredible charm. Even though it is set back at the turn of the 19th century, it contains some modern ideas and creates space within its pages for readers to be seen. When Odette assists the midwife at a birth, the child is proclaimed to be neither girl or boy. There is a duke in the story who only has eyes for other dukes. I’m not a historian by any stretch of the imagination but I’m pretty certain even during the revolution, most communities would not have been welcoming or open minded about differences. They are moments told with kindness, as a matter of fact and add to the richness of the story Sara Cassidy tells. It’s a beautiful lower middle grade novel (officially for children 9-12) but is a book that will be enjoyed by many readers above this age classification. The story is so layered and subtle, it is one you can enjoy at middle age and then pick up again as you get older. There is a beautiful moment in the story when Odette and Nicois are talking and Nicois is sharing a piece of himself and he states: “It feels good to put the pictures out of my head. Spread them on the grass, like newly washed clothes.” It is a moment of utter tenderness and the beginnings of a lifelong friendship. Isn’t that what friendship is all about, the ability to talk openly and share our stories with each other, the good and the bad, so we can spread the pictures out on the ground. There are many more instances of tenderness and love throughout the story but I will leave them to you to discover. It’s not a surprise Nevers found its way onto CBC Books list of must read fall middle grade and YA fiction. Certainly worth looking for it when it releases September 3rd.