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The Feasting Season by Nancy Coons

Leslie Joseph

Pick up The Feasting Season, a bottle of red wine, and enjoy this delicious tale of loyalty, adventure, and the journey of self-discovery.

The Feasting Season

Publisher: Algonquin
ISBN: 1565125193
Author: Nancy Coons
Price: $13.95
Length: 384
Formats: Paperback
US publication date: 2007-07
"Something in me dissolves, delicate, ephemeral, a bridge, unreal to real."

-- The Feasting Season

Call to mind the ubiquitous International Coffee commercials of several years back. In a pastel-colored American home, a gaggle of women would sit in a circle sipping their instant flavored coffees and shrieking with glee, “Jean-Luc!” The Feasting Season is a reading experience that may evoke a similar feeling of adventure, only the French object of desire is Jean-Jacques, and the sustenance within the book's pages seems to offer authenticity that the powdered coffee never could. With The Feasting Season, author Nancy Coons has presented readers with the great gift of a perfect summer novel.

The book is extremely difficult to put down, unless readers are reaching for a glass of wine or to stir whatever simmering French cooking experiment the book has inspired. Coons employs every word and phrase to evoke responses from all the senses. The result is a rich, descriptive tale that can satisfy readers interested in a woman’s experiences of marriage, romance, career, family, and her craft, all tinged with the delights of French culture. Conversely, readers looking for a light romp into the French countryside will be rewarded with a sensual tale. Readers may even pick up a few of the French phrases that are peppered throughout the book.

The Feasting Season focuses on Meg Parker, a writer, wife, and mother. An American married to a Brit living with their children in France, Meg juggles many cultures and roles. Coons’s portrayal of Meg as an intelligent, frank, and realistically flawed character is probably the single strongest advantage that The Feasting Season has over many novels. The obvious presence of a youngish female narrator could be off-putting in light of the droves of questionably written “chick lit” titles available to readers today, but Coons’s dedication to her characters, plot, and setting don’t give a whiff of the diaphanous, pink-covered novels flooding bookstores. It is what Coons offers from her personal experiences of living in France for fifteen years and penning food articles and travel guides that gives the book a credibility beyond its peers.

Nancy Coons is a regular contributor to Saveur Magazine and has written several travel guides for Fodor’s. She has written for the International Herald Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. Coons’s commentaries on French life have aired on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. With The Feasting Season, Coons has created believable characters, realistic romantic dilemmas, and undeniably breathtaking imagery set in the locale about which she writes so passionately.

Obvious care was taken in presenting the geography of France with painstaking accuracy, and more than that, with loving detail. Coons presents two characters, Meg and Jean-Jacques, each with a deep-running appreciation for history, food, wine, and geography. The two characters differ, of course, in their experiences and lifestyles, but find commonality in a truly sensual appreciation of food and culture. Meg and Jean-Jacques are brought together under the auspices of writing and photographing, respectively, for a guidebook on French history and culture. Coons writes descriptions so rich, readers will be able to imagine themselves in places they have never been: farmhouses, wine vineyards, bullfights, and Gypsy celebrations are just a few.

Coons focuses on several themes throughout The Feasting Season. The main dilemma lies in Meg’s journey to uncover and fulfill her true desires, whether they may be a fulfilling family life or an adventurous and sexy life with devil-may-care photographer Jean-Jacques. Through the characters of Meg and her husband Nigel, the joys and strains of combining cultures are addressed. Coons gives a light-hearted but pointed analysis of the relations between French, English, and American people residing in France. An interesting dinner party scene serves as an analogy for the vast differences in mindsets and opinions one might encounter. Coons also very thoroughly examines the conundrum of a woman focused on both her career and her domestic desires.

Meg Parker, undeniably devoted to her children and their growth, can be found some mornings in her “bunker,” the tiny space she uses for writing, while her children wake in the occasional wet bed or tearful from a nightmare. Coons presents realistically the struggle of a woman who feels torn at times between her family and her passion for her career. The Feasting Season culminates in a confrontation of Meg’s two worlds, cleverly set at a reenactment of the historical Battle of Agincourt. Through Meg’s choices, Coons resolves her tale in a satisfactory, yet rather unorthodox manner. Pick up The Feasting Season, a bottle of red wine, and enjoy this delicious tale of loyalty, adventure, and the journey of self-discovery.


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