Baptiste Molino has devoted his life to other people's happiness. Moored on his houseboat on the edge of Toulouse, he helps his clients navigate the waters of contentment, yet remains careful never to make waves of his own.
Baptiste is more concerned with his past than his future: particularly the mysterious circumstances of his birth and the identity of his birth mother. But Sophie, the young waitress in his local bar, believes it is time for Baptiste to rediscover passion and leads him into the world on his doorstep he has long tried to avoid.
However, it is Baptiste's new client who may end up being the one to change his perspective. Elegant and enigmatic, Amandine Rousseau is fast becoming a puzzle he longs to solve. As tensions rise on the streets of the city, Baptiste's determination to avoid both the highs and lows of love begins to waver. And when his mother's legacy finally reveals itself, he finds himself torn between pursuing his own happiness and safeguarding that of the one he loves.
Everything Love Is by Claire King is published in hardback by Bloomsbury and is the author's second novel. I read and reviewed her first book, The Night Rainbow here on Random Things in April 2013.
Everything Love Is begins with the birth of the lead character Baptiste. His delivery into the world was traumatic and violent, and those six pages, set in May 1968 on a train travelling through the French countryside are the most wonderful opening to a beautifully written and fascinating story of love and hope mixed with bitter sadness and loss.
Many years later, adult Baptiste is living on a houseboat called Candace, just outside of Toulouse. He's a carer, a fixer, a man who tries to help the clients that visit him, he helps them to find happiness, whilst all the time he is struggling with his own inner peace.
Baptiste's friend Sophie, who works in the local bar and ensures that he eats, and cares deeply for him, calls him a kingfisher. The author's gift for lyrical, musical, sensuous words are displayed in the passage where Amandine explains her reasoning;
"When most creatures look down at the canal, they see themselves reflected within in. But not the kingfisher. He sees straight through the surface to everything that lies beneath. That's what you do with people. Most of us only ever see the surface of others, or else our own reflection. But for you it's as though the surface isn't there. That's how you help people."
The first one hundred pages of Everything Love Is is challenging, there are voices that contribute to the story that don't seem to fit properly; an anonymous character, who is very close to Baptiste, but who baffled me at first. And then, the reader realises, and the story takes another dimension. It's almost like driving a new car; you know that you love it, but initially you are not quite sure where everything is, and then one day, it becomes comfortable and smooth and as simple as breathing.
Claire King's writing reminds me of Joanne Harris' Chocolat, not just the exquisitely described small French town setting, but the elegant and seductive prose alongside her vibrant and wonderfully constructed characters.
Beautifully crafted, Everything Love Is really is a study of love and longing. The author delicately handles the progressive decline of Baptiste as he searches for answers about his beginnings.
A novel to savour and absorb, and remember.
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.
My Life In Books ~ Claire King
As I'm sure everyone does for this feature, I've agonised over how to select a handful of books that in some way represent my life in books. In the end, I've chosen not my favourite books (though some are) but books that have influenced me as a writer/reader: Landmarks on my literary voyage of discovery.
Stig of the Dump by Clive King Even though I was an avid reader as a child - fiction, non-fiction and very often just the dictionary - this is the first book I remember giving me a 'Wow' moment. It was chosen by the school librarian for the class to read when I was eleven. It taught me something about who I was as a reader and as a person. I was enormously impressed by the author's deliberate toying with readers' preconceptions.
Watership Down by Richard Adams Another book recommended to me by the same librarian. I remember her saying that it was aimed at older readers, but she thought I was up to it. Smart tactic. I bought it with my pocket money and thought I'd got a great bargain as it was MUCH thicker than any book I'd read before. But it turned out I was NOT up to it. I couldn't get into it at all. It took me several attempts over months, maybe years, before something finally clicked. Then, for a while, it was the best thing I'd ever read. It taught me about not giving up on a book.
Riders by Jilly Cooper I was a horse loving and slightly (quite a lot actually) off-the-rails teenager. Having Jilly Cooper's page turning, enjoyable, slightly scandalous books meant I could live vicariously through Jake, Rupert, Taggie et al, at least some of the time. Lots of my friends were reading them too, so they were a great talking point. Jilly may have kept me from getting into even more trouble than I did.
I now live in the Cotswolds where the books were set and I'm looking forward to reading the new one in situ this year!
The Oxford Library of English Poetry edited by John Wain I read a lot of poetry in my first year of university, most of it from these three volumes. Not because I was studying English, but because I wasn't. I took an economics degree, having been advised it was more likely to help me get a job. It was poetry that anchored me to creative writing during those 3 years. From Dryden and Blake, through Thomas Love Peacock, and Gerard Manley Hopkins, Yeats and Larkin and Elizabeth Jennings. I'm still fascinated by the way that so few words, when well placed, can pull emotions from my own heart and show them to me. My favourite poems from that time are still bookmarked.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy When I first read this novel I don't think I had ever read anything quite like it before. The setting itself is a character, brought to life through exquisite and evocative descriptions and by the way the (other) characters interact with it. The writing is luscious and unconventional and although using a third person point of view it manages to deliver the story through Rahel's young eyes, which gives it an extraordinary impact. This novel remains a firm favourite of mine to this day.
The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger I am sure the writing in this book is wonderful too: indeed there are a couple of scenes that still stick in my mind. But the reason it stands out for me has to be the plotting. Not only is the premise thrilling, but the execution is meticulous, so cleverly delivered. I thought this book an absolute triumph and an inspiration. It made me work quite hard as a reader to fit the timeline together, and once I had read it I had to immediately read it again to try and work out how it was done.
Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie Over twenty years after my travails with Watership Down, this became the first book I never finished. My first daughter had just been born and I had truly realised what 'having no time' means. I struggled with every page, and things were enough of a struggle as it was without reading becoming a chore. I put it down and never looked back. I've read enough now to know when a book isn't for me, and life is too short to stick them out.
The Peppered Moth by Margaret Drabble A book set where I grew up, from an author whose roots were also back there. By the time I read this I had already moved a long way from home, both literally and figuratively. But here was a book that held up a mirror, reminding me where I came from, and who I had always wanted to be.
The Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling My husband grew up with these playful, witty, fantastical stories. Oh my Best Beloved, but I came to them late, at the same time as my own children. What a joy to discover them. Reading them for the first time was like coming full circle - getting back to the basic love of storytelling and the stretchy, accommodating English language. (By the way, if you can get hold of the audio book read by Johnny Morris, definitely do. He is a WONDERFUL narrator).
Claire King ~ July 2016
Claire King's debut novel, The Night Rainbow, was published by Bloomsbury in 2013.
She is also the author of numerous prize-winning short stories.
After fourteen years in southern France, Claire has recently returned to the UK and now lives with her family by a canal in Gloucestershire.
For more information, visit her website www.claire-king.com
Follow her on Twitter @ckingwriter