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Celebration was written by Rosie Thomas to whom I was originally introduced by her book Iris and Ruby which I had thoroughly enjoyed and I have read a couple of others since.
Set amidst the Vineyards of Bordeaux and California the book follows the story of Bell, a journalist who specialises in wine writing.
Bell is introduced as an independent woman who is determined to be successful in her chosen career. She has recently ended a long-term relationship and is excited at the prospect of travelling to France to interview one of the most traditional and renowned wine producers in Bordeaux. She soon becomes fascinated by the subdued Baron and then becomes firm friends with his sister, Juliette. All too soon her visit is over and her jet-setting lifestyle takes her to the sun-drenched state of California. Here she meets the all-American Valentine Gordon and quickly settles into the relaxed way of life of his American neighbours.
Although her life appears successful and glamorous Bell still feels lonely. She craves the security of a relationship as well as the prestige of her job. Suddenly the direction of her life is changed and she is required to think about what she really wants and more importantly how she is going to get it.
As soon as I started to read this book I had trouble identifying with the character of Bell. Her personality did not seem well-rounded enough, when she was first introduced she seemed confident and able although there is a certain mystery about why her last relationship ended and what she was really searching for. We then move on to her in France where her reactions seem very out of character and just don't seem to marry with the character we had already met. Next thing we know she is in California where she is made out to be strong and determined not to appear "easy" but then strips naked at every opportunity when a pool or Jacuzzi is in sight! Somehow I just couldn't warm to her and really didn't care overly whether she ended up happy or not.
The French family were written better although the Baron did seem to be a little too remote and although there had been tragedies in his life my heart did not go out to him.
Valentine Gordon was at least more fun. He is competitive and successful as well as being charming and good-looking. He does appear to have a more rounded personality than some of the characters in the story and although he was obviously arrogant he did make for a far more interesting read and you could understand what made him tick.
One of the strangest things about reading this book was the fact that Bell kept getting out her portable typewriter and was distressed that when he phoned the French chateau she could only ever reach the Barons mother. I kept thinking that surely she would have a lap-top and why didn't she use a mobile or e-mail to contact people. This is because I believed the book to be written recently as the cover was in a similar style to her latest book that I had seen in the shops. However when I read inside I realised that this was actually written in 1982 and was re-published in 2004. When I realised my mistake I must admit I smiled as I had forgotten how new technology is now integral our lives and I remember 1982 well when all my phone calls were from a public telephone box or a cold phone in a draughty hallway!
The general storyline was pleasant enough. The writing style was very readable but I must admit I was quite glad when I had finished it. I did want to know what happened in the end but since it was quite a predictable story there were no great twists in store, although the author had obviously tried to make the ending unanticipated it did finish exactly like I thought it would. However the ending did feel quite rushed as the rest of the story had proceeded at quite a steady pace.
If this had been the first Rosie Thomas book I read I may have been dubious about picking up another. However this was written a reasonably long time ago and I think her writing has certainly improved and her characterisation in some of her other books is much stronger. This is fine for a light read but don't expect to want to stay up until all hours just to read another page!