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“The Matchmaker of Périgord” by Julia Stuart

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Sweet and charming, “The Matchmaker of Périgord” is the award-winning confection which regales its lucky readers with the highly risible antics of the residents of Amour-sur-Belle, a small village in the Dordogne, in southwest France. Guillaume Ladoucette has graduated with distinction from barbers’ school, and in his career he did beautiful work with short hair on the sides and back. But changes in tonsorial tastes reach even rural French villages, along with the rampant tendency to baldness, and eventually Guillaume must find another trade.

Famous mini-tornadoes bookend the narrative: the first occurred in 1999 and caused such a furor of misunderstanding and discord between all the established couples, that Guillaume sees his opportunity – he becomes a matchmaker. The broad silliness that results from his efforts comprises an important delight here; he fails where he wants to succeed and he succeeds where he wants to fail. The one overriding consideration for us and Guillaume is the return to the village of Émilie Fraisse, after her loveless marriage ends. It turns out Guillaume loves her, first, last, and always. The second tornado threatens lives and property at the end of the story, but seems to rearrange things more to everyone’s satisfaction.

The style of “Matchmaker” honors and commemorates the timeless rural pace of a tiny French village. It does so in such a dry and witty way that it lulls us into a happy, amused, delighted state that we consume this entire story smiling, and when we’re not smiling, we’re laughing out loud. This is a very sweet, even tender, story in which the characters have hilarious foibles, and the outcome is never assured. Lighten your load. Visit Amour-sur-Belle with Guillaume, Émilie, and the rest of the quirky cast of “The Matchmaker of Périgord.” And see if you don’t start wishing you could live there with its gastronomic delights (this is France, after all) and its rocky road to love.
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