Published Jan 2010
‘On my conscientious visits to what had once been real gardens, to Vaux–le-Vicomte or Marly-le-Roi, I came into more meaningful contact with my subject. In those dignified but deserted spaces I could appreciate the symmetry which I had once thought rigid. I now saw that it was guarded secret, and if it enshrined my melancholy it also celebrated a divine proportion’.
When cautious Emma Robert goes to France to carry out research into seventeenth-century garden design, she finds a reliable diversion from her studies in her unlikely new friend Françoise Desnoyers, in whose beautiful house she is welcomed as a guest. However, she is not too dazzled to ignore the tensions that exist between Françoise and her formidable mother, or between Mme Desnoyers and her other guests.
London recedes into the background as life in France becomes more significant in every respect. It is not until the horrifying episode that puts an end to this fascination that Emma is reconciled to her duller but safer life at home and to the compromises that she comes to accept.