Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Review:The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti by Annie Vanderbilt

After her husband Paul dies very unexpectedly, Lily Crisp feels she needs a brief respite from everyday responsibilities to ponder the future, but mostly to savor the past. Her destination is France, to the house called La Pierre Rouge, an inheritance from her mother-in-law. When Lily hires Yves, local handyman, to fix the tiles on the roof, he listens to her past in musings spoken only in English. As Yves only speaks French, it makes it easier for her to unburden herself completely. As she explains in the beginning, she has been living in her memories and needs to talk. When she is alone she is also reliving the past on paper as she pours out her loves and losses to Madame Olivetti, the old fashioned manual typewriter that seems to take on a life of its own. Madame Olivetti is almost a character in the book as Vanderbilt manages quite nicely, to breathe life into the old machine.

The story just flows off the page as Lily remembers her past life filled to the brim with love, some transitory, some long lived. She also has many memories of family relationships over the years as she always had an interest in family histories. When her catharsis is done, Lily feels she can now move forward to the next stage in her life.
Vanderbilt has done a wonderful job of writing this charming and captivating story. With beautiful, lyrical descriptions of locales, nature’s elements like wind and sea are given animation.Her main characters are fleshed out well enough and the peripheral characters only add to the charm. I really liked the book and rated it 4****. A big thank you to Annie Vanderbilt for sending me a copy of this book for review.

Note: the end of the book contains a conversation with Annie Vanderbilt and a guide with discussion questions that would be most helpful for book clubs.


  1. I'm reading this book now and I'm enjoying it even though the prose gets a little too flowery for me at times.

  2. This sounds really good! I'll watch for it.

  3. This is the first review I've read for this one and it sounds really good! I'm going to have to read it now. Great job!

  4. I loved this review. I want to read this one! Sounds good.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.