Book summary: The Pleasing Hour

1999 BY LILY KING

The Pleasing Hour is the story of Rosie, an American au pair in Europe whose coming-of-age defies all our usual conceptions of naïveté and experience.

Every autumn, on a day called la rentrée, hundreds of filles descend upon Paris to move in with Parisian families and care for the children. They drink in the glamorous culture, pursue romance and the perfect accent. But Rosie is different; when she comes to live with the Tivots on their houseboat in Paris, she is fleeing an unspeakable loss that has left her hollow and longing for family. As Rosie awkwardly grasps for the French words to communicate with the Tivots, she longs for a piece of common ground with Nicole, the cool, distant, and beautifully polished mother of the three children she cares for. Rosie's bond with Marc, the father of the household, develops almost too naturally, and the children make their way so deep inside her heart, she can practically read their thoughts. But when Lola, the middle child, begins to suspect too close an attachment between her au pair and her father, Rosie flees to the south of France to care for Nicole's elderly guardian, the storyteller of the family's secrets.

As the narrative slides effortlessly into the warm light of the French countryside, a tapestry is woven between a past darkened by war and betrayals and a present haunted by the weight of that legacy. Soon Rosie understands the tragic losses behind Nicole's austere demeanor and sees that the two of them have more in common than she believed.

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