The Suitors is the latest novel from Cécile David-Weill, a French-American author who has published two other novels and is a regular contributor to the French online news magazine Le Point. The main character in this novel hails from among the French ultra-rich who entertain stock traders, fashion designers, models and other celebrity guests.
David-Weill presents a romantic scene on the Mediterranean coast. L’Agapanthe is properly referred to as a “bonne maison,” a place of beauty where chambermaids unpack and repack the suitcases of guests whose rooms are provided with pretty sheets, mineral water, fruit and flowers. A Downton Abbey parallel commences as Laure (psychoanalyst, single-mother) travels with her sister to her parent’s summer home for a ritual monthly dinner and conversation. Here, they learn of their parent’s plan to sell the estate as it is becoming a huge financial burden. The sisters devise a plan to save their beloved summer home by marrying a wealthy man who will support them in their quest to save L’Agapanthe.
Distractions abound as the story is not very plot-driven and the characters are flat. The elaborate dinner menus provide a certain cohesion that holds the story together. Since it’s a first-person narration, the reader gains insight into how Laure thinks and feels without much in the way of description. This makes the story seem stale, a collection of meaningless events highlighting the novels theme: two sisters plot to marry a very wealthy man.
The main character is nostalgic, even dreamy. Laure loves L’Agapanthe as a part of her identity; it is an invitation to joyfulness with its garden creating a beautiful harmony between indoors and outdoors and guests who provide inspired reverie. Laure and Marie may be nothing but wretched bourgeoisie or they may be two sisters determined to hang on to a beloved summer home, depending on the reader. It is this mystery which makes the novel an entertaining summer read.