The French Impressionist
Author: Rebecca Bischoff
Publisher: Amberjack Publishing
Publication Date: December 6, 2016
Genre: YA Fiction, YA Contemporary
Mary’s Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Review copy from NetGalley
“Rosemary is fifteen and gloriously free, on her own for the very first time. Part of an exchange program for aspiring artists, she arrives in sunny southern France with a single goal: she doesn’t plan to leave, ever. She wants a new life, a new family, and a new identity. But her situation, crafted from lies big and small, is precarious.
Desperate to escape haunting images from her past and a stage one helicopter parent, Rosemary struggles to hide her lack of artistic talent and a communication disorder that has tormented her all her life. She believes her dream of a new start will come true, until she unwittingly finds herself enveloped in a decades-old mystery that threatens to ruin her only chance for success. Determined to stay, Rosemary must choose whether or not she’ll tell the biggest lie of all, even if it means destroying the life of someone she cares about.”
I’m going to keep this short and sweet…well, not really short… or sweet either. Sorry.
Fifteen-year-old Rosemary escapes the clutches of her overbearing mother by convincing her mother to send her to a summer study abroad program for artists. Rosemary tells her mother the program is in Arizona (“study abroad,” eh?), but Rosemary tells her mother’s boyfriend Zander, who helped her with the logistics to her French escape, the program is in Paris. However, the program is in Nice, France, in the home and storefront of Sylvie and Emile, who are a painter and amateur chef, respectively. Rosemary, desperate to start a new life away from Idaho and her obsessive and controlling mother, plans on telling more lies to convince Sylvie and Emile to keep her as their own child at the end of the summer.
The narration was told from Rosemary’s point of view and was written well, in that, I believed it was a 15-year-old telling the story. Unfortunately, I became annoyed with Rosemary’s character because she constantly whined about her “communication disorder,” which didn’t have a name until well over 80% through the book. Not that a disability needs a name, but when the author fails to show the reader how a character’s speech is hindered and uses cliché descriptions, it’s frustrating. Rosemary describing her “words turning into mush” or her “tongue being glued to the roof of [her] mouth”, worked the first few times, but I failed to empathize with Rosemary the more and more those phrases appeared.
What was even more frustrating was Rosemary’s tantrums, and they made me question how she was even able to get away with her “running away and starting a new life in France” bit. She literally threw a fit when she found out that Sylvie and Emile’s son, who Rosemary thought was dead (and wanted to replace, mind you, for this whole “start new” scheme), was actually disabled and in a rehab/physical therapy facility. She was pissed that their son wasn’t dead. …What? There was a point when Rosemary also wanted to accuse her mother’s boyfriend Zander of sexual assault for pity from Sylvie and Emile (again, part of her “start new/adopt me” scheme)… I couldn’t wrap my mind around her selfishness.
There was a second storyline to the story in regard to an empty and hidden apartment in Sylvie and Emile’s building that had belonged to a famous actress who also had a speech disorder. Rosemary found this to be her escape to learn more about this actress and feel like there was someone else like her. Tied to this storyline was that a creepy neighbor in the building wanted to get into this actress’s secret apartment and take all the valuables–it got suspenseful toward the end, sort of, but the wrap-up also felt abrupt. The premise sounded promising, but the execution fell short.
I will commend the author, who is a speech-language pathologist, for writing a book about a character with a speech impediment, but the execution could’ve been better. I understand completely what she was trying to do, and I really wanted to be empathetic toward Rosemary, but not showing us Rosemary’s dialogue, overplaying the tantrums and the really far-out lies really kept me from enjoying this book.
Have you ever read a book that had a promising synopsis but fell short or was frustrating to read?