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The Pleasing Hour

(1999)
A novel by

 
 
The Pleasing Hour is as sensuous and ambling as a river in summer. With great delicacy, it tells how Rosie, a 19-year-old American comes to Paris to be an au pair for Marc and Nicole and their three children and recasts the family and their love. While other au pairs want to acquire fluency and a Parisian accent, Rosie needs to escape from her recent decision to act as a surrogate mother for her infertile sister. She is "guarded, flinchless", her breasts leak and she's "big and unspectacular, nothing like the cinema samples". In the home of the elegant and abrasive Nicole, she feels inconvenient and judged. King excels as she conveys the awkward peculiarity of the au pair job, which places you "en famille", while denying any real and lasting access to its intimacies. Rosie is brilliantly placed to dissect the snobbery and bourgeois concerns that Parisians are so good at and King hits the mark with wit and accuracy as the family reveal their subtle and not so subtle anti- Americanisms. As Rosie becomes a confidante, the characters develop in dimensionality and sympathy. Guillaume, the youngest, nurses unfashionable fervour for the priesthood; Lola needs love and sensitivity and misses nothing; while Odile, the eldest, begins to become aware of her desire for other girls. Despite Marc's bad posture and splayed feet, Rosie finds herself attracted to him and their adultery is handled in fresh, erotic and unexpected ways. As Nicole attains the uncanny perceptiveness of the deceived, Rosie chooses to protect her from the kind of loss she herself has suffered and leaves for Provence, to take care of an elderly woman, who once cared for Nicole. Only through this second sacrifice does Rosie learn what she needs and wants and also learns from the older woman why Nicole is so self- protected.

King weaves a complex and intricate set of relationships with humour and emotional insight. The surprising shifts in alliances and loyalties are convincingly told and avoid the common traps of sentimentality and melodrama. It's both a well-toned and languid novel set against the dreamy backdrop of "the pleasing hour", the lilac light of a French dusk. -- Cherry Smyth

Genre: Literary Fiction

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Used availability for Lily King's The Pleasing Hour

Hardback Editions

January 1900 : USA Library Binding
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Title: The Pleasing Hour
Author(s): Lily King
ISBN: 0-613-36605-0 / 978-0-613-36605-2 (USA edition)
Publisher: San Val
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


September 1999 : USA Hardback
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Title: The Pleasing Hour
Author(s): Lily King
ISBN: 0-87113-754-2 / 978-0-87113-754-8 (USA edition)
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Pr
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


Paperback Editions

March 2010 : USA Paperback
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Title: The Pleasing Hour
Author(s): Lily King
ISBN: 0-8021-4374-1 / 978-0-8021-4374-7 (USA edition)
Publisher: Grove Press
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


October 2000 : UK Paperback
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Title: The Pleasing Hour
Author(s): Lily King
ISBN: 1-86049-780-2 / 978-1-86049-780-3 (UK edition)
Publisher: Virago
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


October 2000 : USA Paperback
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Title: The Pleasing Hour
Author(s): Lily King
ISBN: 0-7432-0164-7 / 978-0-7432-0164-3 (USA edition)
Publisher: Scribner
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


October 1999 : UK Paperback
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Title: The Pleasing Hour
Author(s): Lily King
ISBN: 1-86049-719-5 / 978-1-86049-719-3 (UK edition)
Publisher: Virago
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   


Audio Editions

October 2008 : USA Audio edition
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Title: The Pleasing Hour
Author(s): Lily King
Publisher: Recorded Books
Availability: Amazon   


October 2008 : Canada Audio edition
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Title: The Pleasing Hour
Author(s): Lily King
Publisher: Recorded Books
Availability: Amazon CA   


2001 : USA Audio Cassette

Title: The Pleasing Hour
Author(s): Lily King
ISBN: 0-7887-9423-X / 978-0-7887-9423-0 (USA edition)
Publisher: Recorded Books
Availability: Amazon   


Kindle Editions

March 2010 : Canada Kindle edition
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Title: The Pleasing Hour: A Novel
Author(s): Lily King
Publisher: Grove Press
Availability: Amazon CA