Book for the (summer) times

BrunoSynchronicity cannot be ignored.

Just before the British voted to exit the European Union, Bruno, Chief of Police, A Novel of the French Countryside, by Martin Walker, was persuasively recommended to me (by a prominent and celebrated librarian, I mean). Just after the vote, I took Bruno in hand on a visit to Spain.

Many Spanish just now are a bit abraded by what they feel is a certain cultural and economic amour propre in the British — a sort of aggrandizement. In Bruno, Martin Walker writes of the Perigord and observes that Frenchmen in the rural South West feel something of the same thing. Walker adds that in South West France there is also a mildly simmering resentment of Paris and Brussels’ EU agricultural regulations as they restrict centuries-old local practices. And he stirs in the tensions in a small village as it assimilates North African Arabs into rural French community life.

Walker sets this as the context for – what else? – a murder mystery, which he spices with truculent right wing politicians railing against Muslims (now 8% of France’s population).

It’s a fine story, set in a fine region, told with a due appreciation for cuisine, wines, cooking. Key to the resolution of it all is a subtle, diplomatic French chief of police bent on preserving community instead of pulling it apart. Either the chief of police or the author has a quiet but powerful sense of humor. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whose it is.

Nice to see a leader coping with change and differences who values an open, evolving community. A book for the times.

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