Friday, 11 December 2015

Book Review - George's Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle

Amazon UK
Title: George's Grand Tour
Author: Caroline Vermalle
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Gallic Books
Publication Date: 2nd March 2015
Rating: 4.5 Stars

At the age of 83, retired butcher George Nicoleau is about to set off on the greatest adventure of his life. George and his neighbour Charles have long dreamt of a road trip, driving the 3500 kilometres that make up the stages of the Tour de France. And now that George’s over-protective daughter has gone to South America, it's time to seize the moment. But just when he feels free of family ties, George’s granddaughter Adèle starts calling him from London, and he finds himself promising to text her as he travels around France, although he doesn't even know how to use a mobile. George is plagued by doubts, health worries and an indifference to modern technology. And yet – might the journey still prove to be everything he had hoped for?

George's Grand Tour really is a book of two parts, one that is funny, charming, heartwarming and uplifting, and then the rest that becomes more serious, and a a bittersweet. All of it combined makes for a charming story, that I really connected to. 

I've read quite a few books this year, featuring main characters in their eighties, doing rather uncharacteristic things with various outcomes, and I have to say, I believe this is easily my favourite of them all. For most of it I was reading it with a smile on my face, and loved learning about various small villages in France. 

George and his neighbour Charles, decide to do the Tour de France, not on bikes, but by car, while George's over protective daughter is on a trek in Peru for 2 months. They realise that with Francoise abroad, this would be their best ever opportunity to follow the 2008 tour route, and as such great Tour de France fanatics they have always wanted to do this. 

One small fly in the ointment was when his seldom heard from grand daughter Adele, calls him, and when she discovers what the pair are up to she insists on a daily text message. 

The scene where George and Charles are in a restaurant, and are being given lessons in text message language from the waiters is one of  the highlights of the book for me, as is the subsequent text message exchanges with Adele over the next few weeks, as they form a connection to each other. 

There is even a hint of romance in the early stages of the tour, as well as lots of sight seeing, taking lots of breaks in small villages, you get a real feel of Brittany, and its food. 

As the story progresses you discover that both the men have secret ulterior motives for the trip, one of which could possibly be guessed and the other which really did catch me out, but both were admirable. And George and Charles slowly go from neighbours, who sometimes pass the time of day, to real friends. 

I believe there is a message to be taken from this story, which is that old people are more capable than you give them credit for, can still learn new things and can be up for adventure too. And also not to neglect your grandparents, even if they do live a normally boring existence in a small village in France. 

Although most of the book focuses on the road trip, we get occasional chapters set in France, and we see what is going on in Adele's life, and it made quite a good contrast in fortunes. 

George's Grand Tour is an excellent story, that is told with a lot of affection for the characters, and I loved the writing of Caroline Vermalle. who I think really got into the mind set of George and Charles. Inspirational story that I loved reading. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Gallic Books for this review copy. This is my honest opinion. 

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