Publisher: Gallic Books (5 Dec 2013)
It is 1919. On a summer’s night in Normandy, a new-born baby is left in a basket outside the home of Albert and Jeanne Arnaud. The childless couple take the foundling in, name him Jean, and decide to raise him as their own, though his parentage remains a mystery. Though Jean’s life is never dull, he grows up knowing little of what lies beyond his local area. Until the day he sets off on his bicycle to discover the world, and encounters a Europe on the threshold of interesting times…
I enjoyed the way the story began. Jeanne is dreaming … which mirrors the reality of a baby wailing on the doorstep. The first person she goes to advice is employer Antoine du Corseau. Antoine and his life features heavily in the first half of the book. He drives for three days to visit the intriguing and absent daughter Genevieve. With the story set not long after the ending of WW1, he shares war stories with the people he meets on his stops. He’s bored being back on his estate after the war and I imagine quite a few had lost their purpose in life …
We don’t find out much about Jean (apart from Antoine’s son, Michel, being very jealous of Jean) at first. When he’s older, his first trip is from Dieppe to Newhaven to visit Genevieve. The mysterious Genevieve is absent and he spends time sightseeing with the chauffeur. When he travels again, he meets some interesting characters in Italy and England! Palfrey leads an interesting life and certainly added colour to the story.
During both Antoine’s and Jean’s travels we’re exposed to this time period in history – the art, politics, cars and sports. I found this interesting.
There are loose ends that need tying up (we do find out one important thing – I hadn’t guessed exactly although the clues are there) and we find out that there is another book.
The Foundling Boy is written with a dry sense of humour (which I enjoyed). It was easy to get a feel about life on a French estate and the places travelled to. Villefranche sur Mer is one of my favourite places – this had a brief mention in the story. I enjoyed seeing the changes of the small French villages on the Côte d’Azur in 1919 to how they are now. Romance comes not only from Antoine but also Jean’s teen feelings. It would be good to see how Jean develops into a man and the path his life will take in the following story.
*The Foundling Boy was translated from French by Julian Evans*
Read the first chapter on Gallic Books website
I would like to thank the publishers for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.