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Coastliners
Cover of Coastliners
Coastliners
A Novel
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Mado has been adrift for too long. After ten years in Paris, she returns to the small island of Le Devin, the home that has haunted her since she left.

Le Devin is shaped somewhat like a sleeping woman. At her head is the village of Les Salants, while its more prosperous rival, La Houssinière, lies at her feet. Yet even though you can walk from one to the other in an hour, they are worlds apart. And now Mado is back in Les Salants hoping to reconcile with her estranged father. But what she doesn't realize is that it is not only her father whose trust she must regain.

Mado has been adrift for too long. After ten years in Paris, she returns to the small island of Le Devin, the home that has haunted her since she left.

Le Devin is shaped somewhat like a sleeping woman. At her head is the village of Les Salants, while its more prosperous rival, La Houssinière, lies at her feet. Yet even though you can walk from one to the other in an hour, they are worlds apart. And now Mado is back in Les Salants hoping to reconcile with her estranged father. But what she doesn't realize is that it is not only her father whose trust she must regain.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    I returned after ten years' absence, on a hot day in late August, on the eve of summer's first bad tides. As I stood watching the approach from the deck of Brismand 1, the old ferry into La Houssinière, it was almost as though I had never left. Nothing had changed: the sharp smell of the air; the deck beneath my feet; the sound of the gulls in the hot blue sky. Ten years, almost half my life, erased at a single stroke, like writing in the sand. Or almost.

    I'd brought scarcely any luggage, and that reinforced the illusion. But I'd always traveled light. We both had, Mother and I; there had never been much to weigh us down. And at the end it had been I who paid the rent for our Paris flat, working in a dingy late-night café to supplement the income from the paintings Mother hated so much, while she struggled with her emphysema and pretended not to know she was dying.

    All the same I should have liked to have returned wealthy, successful. To show my father how well we'd managed without his help. But my mother's small savings had run out long ago, and my own -- a few thousand francs in a Crédit Maritime; a folder of unsold paintings -- amounted to little more than we'd taken with us the day we left. Not that it mattered. I was not planning to stay. However potent the illusion of time suspended, I had another life now. I had changed.

    No one looked at me twice as I stood slightly apart from the others on the deck of the Brismand 1. It was high season, and there were already a good number of tourists aboard. Some were even dressed as I was, in sailcloth trousers and fisherman's vareuse -- that shapeless garment halfway between a shirt and a jacket -- town people trying too hard not to look it. Tourists with rucksacks, suitcases, dogs, and children stood crammed together on the deck among crates of fruit and groceries, cages of chickens, mailbags, boxes. The noise was appalling. Beneath it, the hissshh of the sea against the ferry's hull and the screee of gulls. My heart was pounding with the surf.

    As Brismand 1 neared the harbor I let my eyes travel across the water toward the esplanade. As a child I had liked it here; I'd often played on the beach, hiding under the fat bellies of the old beach huts while my father conducted whatever business he had at the harbor. I recognized the faded Choky parasols on the terrasse of the little café where my sister used to sit; the hot dog stand; the gift shop. It was perhaps busier than I remembered; a straggling row of fishermen with pots of crabs and lobsters lined the quay, selling their catch. I could hear music from the esplanade; below it, children played on a beach that, even at high tide, seemed smoother and more generous than I remembered. Things were looking good for La Houssinière.

    I let my eyes roam along the Rue des Immortelles, the main street, which runs parallel to the seafront. I could see three people sitting there side by side in what had once been my favorite spot: the seawall below the esplanade overlooking the bay. I remembered sitting there as a child, watching the distant gray jawbone of the mainland, wondering what was there. I narrowed my eyes to see more clearly; even from halfway across the bay I could see that two of the figures were nuns. . . .

    The foregoing is excerpted from Coastliners by Joanne Harris. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022

About the Author-
  • Joanne Harris is the author of seven previous novels--Chocolat, Blackberry Wine, Five Quarters of the Orange, Coastliners, Holy Fools, Sleep, Pale Sister, and Gentlemen & Players; a short story collection, Jigs & Reels; and two cookbook/memoirs, My French Kitchen and The French Market. Half French and half British, she lives in England.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from September 2, 2002
    Family history meets village rivalry in Harris's poignant fourth novel, an understated passion play set on the provincial French island of Le Devin. Madeleine Prasteau leaves her Paris apartment to return to the island village of Les Salants, where she discovers that her father, a widowed boat owner, is going downhill along with the village itself as the rival town of La Houssinière grows and prospers. Despite her father's chilly greeting, Madeleine spruces up the family home, and when she meets an attractive, mysterious stranger named Flynn she gets involved in a project to save Les Salants by building a homemade reef to restore the fast-eroding beach. The project gets complicated when Madeleine realizes that Flynn has ties to Brismand, a rival of her father's, who controls local commerce in La Houssinière. The reef project succeeds, but with a bitter aftertaste when Madeleine's older sister, Adrienne, moves back to the island and her father becomes infatuated with Adrienne's children. Sibling rivalry fades to the background when Madeleine learns that Flynn's ties to Brismand extend into her own family history, and she discovers that Flynn was an integral part of a romantic triangle involving her father and Brismand. Harris develops her beguiling story in layers, drawing Madeleine into the village life she loves and loathes while exploring the nuances of island living. Despite the narrowly focused setting, Harris exposes a wide range of passions and emotions as Madeline gets involved with Flynn against the effective backdrop of the various family and village rivalries. This book lacks the lurid erotic power of Chocolat, but Harris compensates for the lowered levels of passion and eros by writing with power and grace about the family ties that bind. 6-city author tour.(Sept.)Forecast:
    Chocolat and
    Five Quarters of the Orange were bestsellers, and
    Coastliners should match their performance so long as readers don't balk at the absence of a culinary hook.

  • Kirkus Reviews

    "Harris delivers the goods for readers who can't get enough..."

  • Boston Herald

    "[Harris] proves she doesn't need pantry ingredients to cook up a delectable story."

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Coastliners
A Novel
Joanne Harris
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