From the best-selling author of The Elegance of the Hedgehog comes a story about a woman's journey to discover the father she never knew and a love she never thought possible.
Rose has just turned forty when she gets a call from a lawyer asking her to come to Kyoto for the reading of her estranged father’s will. And so for the first time in her life she finds herself in Japan, where Paul, her father’s assistant, is waiting to greet her.
As Paul guides Rose along a mysterious itinerary designed by her deceased father, her bitterness and anger are soothed by the stones and the trees in the Zen gardens they move through. During their walks, Rose encounters acquaintances of her father—including a potter and poet, an old lady friend, his housekeeper and chauffeur—whose interactions help her to slowly begin to accept a part of herself that she has never before acknowledged.
As the reading of the will gets closer, Rose’s father finally, posthumously, opens his heart to his daughter, offering her a poignant understanding of his love and a way to accept all she has lost.
Barberry (The Elegance of the Hedgehog) returns with a lyrical and opaque story of a French woman grieving her Japanese father, a man she'd never met. Forty-year-old Parisian botanist Rose travels to Kyoto for the reading of the will of her father, the influential art dealer Haru Ueno. Before the reading, Haru's assistant, Paul, a Belgian widower, drags Rose along to visit a series of temples as part of an itinerary left by Haru. Uncertain how she should feel and initially disoriented by the gardens and flowers around her, Rose yearns to know more about her father. She discovers, despite remaining distant, that he kept up with her life by hiring photographers to follow her and send back photos. She drifts through the days with lugubrious philosophical thoughts ("The branches reconstituted a tableau of perfection, and the visual choreography of it touched her heart but also irritated her"), and just as Rose recognizes her attraction to Paul, he leaves suddenly for Tokyo on business, and the day of the will reading rapidly approaches. Barberry includes standalone aphoristic Japanese tales, such as that of a healer who "knew the virtues of plants," which add texture but feel tenuously connected to the central narrative. This plaintive novel impresses with its smoothness, but it will leave readers wondering how the pieces are meant to fit together.
A Beautifully written story
A Single Rose by Muriel Barbery is a beautifully written book about love, forgiveness, and family.
Rose goes to Kyoto Japan for the reading of her fathers’ will. A father who left her and her mother when she was just a baby. A father she had never met and had never received any communications from him. She’s resentful that he never contacted her, especially after her mother died a few years earlier.
When she arrives in Japan, she meets Paul, her father’s assistant, and he takes her on a tour of the sites and temples around Kyoto. This tour was pre-arranged by her father and through this tour, Rose learns more about her father and his love of Japan and his philosophies. She meets several friends of her Father’s and learns more about him, and through them, learns about herself.
This book is not an easy book to read, as it’s full of imagery and beautiful description. But, it’s a wonderful story, set in a beautiful location so it’s worth reading. I did enjoy this book, even when reading through the passages of description slowed me down a bit.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.