Posted by: Lisa Hill | February 6, 2014

Sensational Snippets: Valley of Grace (2009), by Marion Halligan

Valley of GraceI love Marion Halligan’s writing.   I’ve loved it ever since I discovered her early novels Wishbone and Spider Cup, and except for her venture into crime novels with the Apricot Colonel, I’ve bought every novel she’s ever written since.

Valley of Grace was published in 2009, and it is exquisite.  It’s set in Paris, which gives Halligan plenty of opportunities for sensuous descriptions of food, visual arts, textiles and of course architecture.   In the first chapter, she introduces Fanny, who wants to have a baby…

At Christmas the shops in the rue St Jacques wreathe their windows with evergreen branches.  Real ones, not plastic.  When you walk along the street their peppery smell prickles the nostrils, becoming more pungent as the boughs dry and release their scented oils in the cold air.  Plaisir d’Enfant has wonderful thick evergreens, and the window inside has a few tiny garments arranged on crumpled white silk, all brightly coloured, a little green smock, a red velvet dress, a minute pair of socks printed with purple jelly babies.  The woman in the shop changes them often.  Red leather boots with orange buttons, mittens embroidered with holly, a tiny hooded coat in navy blue printed with red rosebuds.  When you see them from across the street they look like jewels in the snow.

Whenever Séverine comes to visit [Fanny] she can’t resist calling in to Plaisir d’Enfant.  Just to look, she says.  But she always buys something.  Fanny looks on enviously as she chooses among the small garments.  Hand-stitched, says the shop-woman, look, and shows them the exquisite craft of an outrageously expensive tiny dress.  It’s made of pale blue linen embroidered with white daisies.  So fine, says the woman, look, you can pull it through a wedding ring.  Wouldn’t Ghislaine look just gorgeous in it, says Séverine.  I think she has to have it.

Valley of Grace, by Marion Halligan, Allen and Unwin, 2009, p23-4


Fishpond: Valley of Grace


  1. Oh, that’s a lovely book. I read it a couple of years ago. And it’s so beautiful as an object too.


    • Yes, it’s beautifully packaged:)
      Did you review it? URL please?


      • Here you go:

        I note in my review that it was Sue from Whispering Gums who first brought the book to my attention. How lovely is this little network of Australian online book lovers, especially when everyone helps each other to discover such terrific reads.


        • Fantastic, thanks, Kim. I won’t read it till I’ve finished mine and then I’ll link it, and find Sue’s as well.
          Yes! Next time you’re back in town we must see if we can have a gathering!


  2. Just ordered – thanks for this tip. Looking forward to it! Best, Catherine


    • I’m sure you’ll love it:)


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