Title: The Yellow Villa
Author: Amanda Hampson
Published: April 30th 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Mia and Ben, an Australian couple in their early thirties, have relinquished one dream and embraced another, selling their Sydney flat and purchasing an old yellow house in the picturesque village of Cordes-sur-Ciel in South-West France.
They soon meet sophisticated neighbours Dominic and Susannah, a British couple in their sixties who welcome them warmly but whose own relationship is in crisis. Mia and Ben are immediately star-struck and impressed by their lavish hospitality. However, things with Dominic and Susannah are not what they first seem.
Gradually secrets begin to surface, revealing details of a scandal Dominic and Susannah had hoped to leave behind in London. Reeling from these revelations, Mia and Ben no longer trust their own instincts and the peaceful idyll of their French life begins to unravel. Can Dominic and Susannah escape each other, and can Ben and Mia they find their way back to each other and the dream they shared?
It was a most welcome experience to return to the writing of Amanda Hampson, best known for her iconic novel, The Olive Sisters, which I have read, along with Hampson’s 2017 release, The French Perfumer. Hampson sets her sights again on a spectacular French locale and the end result is an appealing, delightful and engaging read. I whipped through The Yellow Villa in no time at all.
France is the best destination to go to if you want a fresh start, which is what troubled Australian couple, Ben and Mia are banking on. This couple has risked a lot for a new beginning, selling up their flat in Sydney, in exchange for a stunning yellow villa, nestled in a picture perfect setting in south-west France. It doesn’t take long before the neighbours, Dominic and Susannah introduce themselves. This British couple in their sixties like to live the high life. Their opulence and lavish lifestyle immediately appeals to Ben and Mia. However, under this facade is a deeply troubled relationship. Bit by bit, it is revealed that Dominic and Susannah have escaped London to avoid the fallout from a scandal. This immediately has an impact on the impressionable Australian couple, who are completely in awe of Dominic and Susannah. While Dominic and Susannah must consider their hold on one another, Ben and Mia grapple with trying to regain the upper hand on their dream and repair their relationship in the process. The Yellow Villa is a heady novel that will keep your eyes glued to the page from start to finish.
Private issues between two contrasting couples are aired out in a sharp and nuanced tone in The Yellow Villa. I enjoyed my third experience with Ms Hampson. There is something inherently poised about Hampson’s writing style. She is able to get the balance right between an accessible and a well refined tone through each of her novels, The Yellow Villa included. This is a novel that I feasted on over a few relaxing hours and I completely enjoyed the experience.
The whole concept of trading in a Sydney flat, as the Australian couple ventures into in The Yellow Villa, completely appealed to me. It is a good idea in theory, but I don’t think I personally would have the courage to do this! I felt very envious of Ben and Mia. I also became completely invested in their new living arrangements. Hampson excels in this aspect of the novel and she successfully draws the reader into her unfolding story.
There are plenty of secrets, twists and plot intersections contained in The Yellow Villa that make this novel such a colourful piece of fiction. The introduction of older couple and neighbours, Dominic and Susannah, adds a certain level of spice to the tale. Through Hampson’s presentation of this couple and the shifting perspectives structure of the novel, I gravitated towards both loving and hating Dominic and Susannah. I also liked the way in which Hampson played this older couple off against the young couple, Ben and Mia. This is perhaps a very good indication of the skill Hampson possesses in delivering refined character dynamics.
The rich sense of place that exudes from The Yellow Villa made it a winner in my eyes. It wasn’t going to take much for this Francophile to get drawn into The Yellow Villa. The descriptions of the villa, the picturesque surrounds and the little inferences into French life were greatly appealing. Hampson also gives us a very good insight into life as a foreigner, trying to forge a new life in a different country. She covers everything from language barriers to local cuisine. It is all presented in a fashion that I found utterly agreeable.
Hampson’s timing is spot on. She feeds the reader just enough information and at just the right time, to keep the momentum of the novel running high. She saves enough secrets and shocks to the last moment, so you are never really sure how it is all going to pan out for the leads in The Yellow Villa. Raw human emotions and domestic politics form the crux of this novel and Hampson’s approach cannot be faulted. I enjoyed her novel very much, right up until the end.
The Yellow Villa is quite the stunner, inside and out. I feel I must acknowledge the inside cover design, the rich mustard background and the nature print is just divine, which makes the physical experience of reading this book simply gratifying. So, it is with confidence that I recommend this popular fiction title. I am sure The Yellow Villa will sit well with many readers.
The Yellow Villa by Amanda Hampson was published on April 30th 2018 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Yellow Villa, Amanda Hampson visit here.
*I wish to thank Penguin Books Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Yellow Villa is book #45 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge