The Matchmaker of Périgord, By Julia Stuart

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The Independent Culture

Julia Stuart very nearly creates gold dust with this quirky, effervescent tale of life in a French village. Renowned for the breeze that perpetually blows through its uneven streets, a wind that people from neighbouring districts say helps explain the lunacy which seems to have prevailed there since Roman times, it is a peculiar place. Two old women have been rowing for years over whether or not a cassoulet should contain tomatoes, and a keen swimmer once tried to con the council into providing a pool by having the townsfolk dress up in false beards and moustaches.

It could be said that this novel is little more than a patchwork of absurd vignettes. The adventures of the town barber do, however, thread them together. He finds another barber stealing his customers, offering them dazzling styles such as the "pine cone". When he decides to become a matchmaker he realises how lonely he is. Can he make a go of his new business after realising the depths of his own sadness?