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Fresh Water for Flowers
by Valérie Perrin

Published: 2020-07-07T00:0
Hardcover : 400 pages
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A POIGNANT RUNAWAY BESTSELLER full of French charm and memorable characters, Fresh Water for Flowers is Valérie Perrin’s English debut.

Violette Toussaint is the caretaker at a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne. Casual mourners, regular visitors, ...

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A POIGNANT RUNAWAY BESTSELLER full of French charm and memorable characters, Fresh Water for Flowers is Valérie Perrin’s English debut.

Violette Toussaint is the caretaker at a cemetery in a small town in Bourgogne. Casual mourners, regular visitors, and sundry colleagues—gravediggers, groundskeepers, and a priest—visit her to warm themselves in her lodge, where laughter, companionship, and occasional tears mix with the coffee she offers them. Her life is lived to the rhythms of their funny, moving confidences.

Violette’s routine is disrupted one day by the arrival of Julien Sole—local police chief—who insists on scattering the ashes of his recently deceased mother on the gravesite of a complete stranger. It soon becomes clear that Julien’s inexplicable gesture is intertwined with Violette’s own difficult past.

With Fresh Water for Flowers, Valérie Perrin has given readers an intimately told story that tugs on the heartstrings about a woman who believes obstinately in happiness, despite it all. A number one bestseller in France, Fresh Water for Flowers is a heartwarming and tender story that will stay will readers for years after the final page is turned.


“Thundering applause. And, believe us, the word ‘thunder’ is not too strong.”—La Marseillaise

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Discussion Questions

From the publisher:

1. One critic called Fresh Water for Flowers “A tender and poignant exploration of love, loss, and redemption.” How do these themes weave together in the narrative? Given the multiple characters and storylines, how do such feelings transcend the characters’ stories in the novel and reflect back on to the readers?

2. The novel recounts Violette’s life over the course of many years, but not always in order. How does this inter-changing chronological structure add to the narrative? Does it take away from it? How does it further underscore the novel’s theme of life’s unpredictability and Violette’s (and, ultimately, ours) resilience?

3. Violette spends most of the novel telling her story as the cemetery keeper in Brancion-en Chalet, but the novel also recounts her life as a level crossing keeper. Discuss the differences in Violette’s life in these two places. How do both locations subvert readers’ expectations and how do they imprint themselves on Violette’s life?

4. Each chapter begins with an epitaph as a preamble for what’s to come. Do you find these epitaphs informed the contents of each chapter? What role do the epitaph’s play in the story?

5. By following the lives of multiple characters other than Violette (Philippe, Gabriel, Irene, Julien, etc.), the novel opens onto the impossibilities and contradictions that make up a person. To wholly care for someone, but to be distant. To be in love, but still unfaithful. In doing so, what commentary does the novel make on how a single life can hold a multitude of lives within it? Do you feel as though each character has redeemed themselves by the end of the novel? Is Violette’s capacity for forgiveness, then, ultimately, a weakness or a strength? Is there anyone who did not fully redeem themselves by the end and, if so, do you at least understand them better?

6. Chapter 75 ends with Violette wondering of Julien, “How will our encounters end?” (346). Meanwhile, Chapter 76 begins with the epitaph “The family isn’t destroyed, it changes. A part of it merely becomes invisible” (347). How do Violette’s encounters with the prominent people in her life— Phillipe, Leonine, Sasha, Celia, Julien, Irene, etc.—guide her to the end of the novel? How does her family change over the course of the novel? Is a family merely one made up of a bloodline?

7. After Leonine’s death, both Philippe and Violette grieve in their own ways, all the way having to deal with the scrutiny from friends and family around them. Discuss how this novel the different ways this novel portrays grief and the avenues with which each character takes to heal. Does any character grieve in a similar way as you? If so, what did you learn from it?

8. This novel portrays different kinds of love: the love friends share; your first love; the love between a mother and a daughter, and between a father and a son; the complicated loves; the loves lost; the misunderstood loves, and more. Do you find love to be enough of a driving force for redemption with some of these characters? Do you believe Violette to be incapable or unworthy of love, as she continuously claims?

9. One critic calls Fresh Water for Flowers “a triumphant celebration of life and love.” Discuss the ways in which this novel reproduces the cycle of life and the ways in which it celebrates it, with all the good and the bad that come along with living? Did you learn anything along the way?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Book Club Recommendations

by bmedvid (see profile) 01/21/22
There is a playlist on Spotify with all of the songs/artists/albums mentioned in this novel.

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  "A Book to Savor "by Brenda M. (see profile) 01/21/22

I loved this book! Don't let the cemetery, deaths, and adultery put you off from this book. This is a book about life and love in all of its forms. It is a sensual book in that it fills your... (read more)

by Susan W. (see profile) 11/24/21

by Caron O. (see profile) 04/05/21

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