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 Adele 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 by Caroline Vermalle was published by Gallic Books on 13 March 2015.
Caroline Vermalle's story of George and his friend Charles' 'grand tour' is a touching comedy, that made me snort with laughter at times, but also brought a lump to my throat during certain scenes.
George and Charles are elderly gentlemen who live in Chanteloup in France. They are not extraordinary men at all, they spend most of their days chatting, drinking and watching the TV. George has a daughter who keeps a close eye on him as his health is not so good, which is no big surprise, considering that he is 83-years-of-age. George has a granddaughter, Adele. Adele works long hours as an unpaid runner in the film industry in London, he and Adele don't have a close relationship. Charles is the youngster of the duo, just in his seventies, he lives with his wife and is surrounded by a brood of children and grandchildren.
For some time, George and Charles have been planning to follow the route of the Tour de France, not on bicycles, but in a brand-new Renault Scenic, complete with GPS and all. Fortuitously, George's daughter has taken herself off abroad and will be out of contact for some weeks. George is pleased about that, he knows that there is no chance that he would be allowed to take such a trip if she had any idea about it.
When Adele unexpectedly contacts him, George begins to worry. How on earth will be be able to stay in touch with Adele without her guessing that he is not in his own kitchen? With the help of some technologically minded youngsters, George's landline is set to divert to his mobile. And they are off.
Things don't really work out as planned, and it's not long before Adele is in on the big secret. George has to learn how to text using the special text language that is so alien to him, and from here, the story really begins.
Caroline Vermalle takes her readers on a journey across France, taking in the countryside and the food, and the people along the way. As George and Charles travel together, so do the readers. We learn more about these two men, especially George, and we grow to love his quirky granddaughter Adele.
Always funny, and often poignant, George's Grand Tour is just a short book at just under 200 pages long, but it is a story that will appeal to all ages. It is a story of hope and optimism, and of family ties and love. It is a book that evokes feelings about one's own family, and how we live our lives, how time flies so quickly and how we really should make the most of every minute, and of every one of our loved ones.
George's Grand Tour is a charming story, well written and unusual.
My thanks to Sophie at ed public relations who sent my copy for review.
Caroline Vermalle was born in France in 1973 to a family whose French roots go back at least as far as the 16th century. Yet, she is a vegetarian who can't cook, doesn't drink, finds berets itchy and would rather eat yesterday's snails than jump a queue.
After graduating from film school in Paris, she became a television documentary producer for the BBC in London and travelled the world, at speed and off the beaten tracks, in search of good stories. In 2008, then on maternity leave, she penned her first novel « George's Grand Tour », whose international success allowed her to quit her job and indulge in her three passions : books, interior design and travel - slowly this time.
After writing 8 novels in different genres and different languages, going on a world tour with her family and building a wooden house in a forest, Caroline now lives between a small seaside town in Vendée (France) and a small seaside town in the Eastern Cape (South Africa) with her son, a black cat and her husband, South African architect-turned-author Ryan von Ruben.
Follow her on Twitter @cvermalle Find her Facebook author page