One summer evening in central France, Gillian Tindall went on an errand into a deserted house. There she discovered a cache of letters in various hands, all written to the same woman. In piecing together the life of this extraordinary person, the author rediscovered a vanished village world and a remarkable period in French history. Celestine ...Read MoreOne summer evening in central France, Gillian Tindall went on an errand into a deserted house. There she discovered a cache of letters in various hands, all written to the same woman. In piecing together the life of this extraordinary person, the author rediscovered a vanished village world and a remarkable period in French history. Celestine Chaumette, an innkeeper's daughter, lived from 1844 until 1933. Many changes occurred during her lifetime, but her story has more to do with the persistence of the past than the loss of it, and Gillian Tindall makes use of a number of sources, from archive material to works of literature, to recreate her life and the life of her village.Read Less
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Publishers Weekly, 1996-01-22 In a deserted house near her own in the French village of Chassignolles, Tindall found four carefully preserved old letters, each from a different man, proposing marriage to 19-year-old C?lestine Chaumette, the long-deceased grandmother of the last resident of the house. The young woman had accepted none of these suitors. Her curiosity piqued, British historian/novelist/biographer Tindall, who has been a householder and part-time resident of the community for 20-odd years, set out to discover more about C?lestine. She queried neighbors and relatives, explored the local cemeteries and pored over musty 19th-century archives. But the search for C?lestine led her to a many-layered study of nearly a century of agrarian life in the region of Berry, in central France near Nohant, where George Sand lived and wrote. Here, life centered on the seasons, the land, births, marriages and deaths-the rhythm of life remained much as it had been for centuries. That rhythm is caught in Tindall's imaginative prose, as are the generations of village characters she brings to life. The coming of the railroad, electricity and, above all, roads and highways significantly altered the way of life there, and the young, as they do everywhere else that family farms give way to technology, moved off to jobs elsewhere. In her search for C?lestine, Tindall has also drawn a remarkable picture of the agricultural heart of France. (Mar.)
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