What we thought:
At the height of the 1980s, a middle-aged English couple, fleeing tragedy back home, make a new life in an hunting lodge in the Dordogne – a landscape on which humans have left traces since Neolithic times. But the grief that Annette and Gerald should share is driving a wedge between them instead.
The Chase explore the way grief and guilt affects people differently. Because we weave between the points of view of Gerald and Annette, it is almost impossible to avoid feeling some sympathy for both of them, even when they seem hell-bent on misunderstanding each other.
Fergusson deftly evokes the atmosphere of the late 1980s. Her Dordogne is inhabited with an array British ex-pats mixing uneasily with their French neighbours, both aristocratic and peasant. The misunderstandings between the couple are mirrored and magnified by the misunderstanding within the little community.
Interspersed through the story are vignettes from the history of this ancient land: a stone age cave painter, a knight from the Hundred Years War, an aristocrat on the cusp of the Revolution, a German soldier corrupted by the power of Occupation. In each vignette, Fergusson’s language changes, subtly reflecting the period she evokes.
The blurb for the Chase describes the book as ‘Joanne Harris meets Daphne du Maurier’, but the books this most evoked for me are The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst (for its evocation of the English in France in the 1980s) and Unless by Carol Shields (for its exploration of the nature of grief).
You’ll Enjoy This If You Like: Carol Shields, Patrick Gale, Alan Hollinghurst
Avoid If You Don’t Like: Gently paced stories focused on internal journeys rather than external action; stories of well-heeled English ex-pats in France
Ideal Accompaniment: Confit of duck, chateaubriand au trois poivres, a glass of Pomerol
Genre: Literary Fiction