This story takes place after World War I and Freddie, the protagonist, struggles with coming to terms of his brother' death. In April 1933, Freddie Watson finds a translator in Toulouse, France for a document. The translator is named Saurat and he is curious how Freddie recieved an Occitan document since it is rare. Freddie recounts his story, which began 5 years ago.
In December 1928, Freddie, originally from London, is on a journey of recovery since he lost his beloved brother, George, in the world war and was recently released from a sanatorium. He begins his trip in Ariege and he makes his way around various towns.
He visits a cementary and the anguish he feels for losing George is still raw, despite so many years passing. There had been many opportunities for suicide but he couldn't do it. His parents have passed and Freddie knew that George was the glue that kept them together.
As he passes through the valleys, he stops in one of them and feels a forbidding presence. He recalls a lecture at prep school about religious battles that occured centuries ago in Southern France. He then hears a feminine voice in the mountains.
He doesn't think much of the voice then returns to his attention to going to Ax-les-Thermes to meet his friends. On the way, he is caught in a blizzard and his vehicle is damaged and nearly toppled over a cliff. He realizes that he doesn't want to die. After saving himself, he hears the voices again and sees a glimpse of a woman.
Afterwards, he makes his way towards the village of Nulle after being pointed in the direction by hunters. His injuries aren't severe but need to be tended to.
He feels a blanket of sadness around the village but ignores it. He finds refuge in an inn that is quickly dying and owned by the Galy family. He is given a room for the night and told there will be people to help with his car in the morning. Madame Galy invites him to the fete de la transhumance, a festival that happens twice a year at night to mark the migration of men and flock to Spain and back.
Madame Galy puts a festive tunic, map and medicine out for him and after she leaves, Freddid decides to join. He realizes that George has always been the star of his life and Freddie had been attempting to mimic his mannerisms.
As he walks out the door, he calls to Monsieur Galy about his departure but doesn't hear him. Freddie leaves and is confused by the map, taking unsure turns. He makes it to the village square and enters the town hall.
Freddie notices that the clothing is very old fashioned then is seated by Guillaume Marty next to a beautiful woman who wears blue. Freddie can't see Madame Galy anywhere since she had left earlier.
He begins talking to the woman, Fabrissa, next to him, being instantly attracted to her. She asks about George and Freddie wonders how she knew. So he tells her about the day a soldier who informed them George was MIA.
After he finishes, two soldiers break into the town hall and attack people. Freddie is confused if this is real. He escapes with Fabrissa to the valley. There she recounts her story.
When she was younger, the village was a peaceful place until soldiers attacked the nearby settlements. Most of the inhabitants fled to the caves. The soldiers were furious to find they weren't there and settled into the village. Eventually, some villagers were careless and the soldiers found them. They closed the cave entrance with stones, trapping them.
When she finishes her story, the night has ended. Freddie believes the sodiers were German. She tells him to find her and disappears. Freddie is woken up by Madame Galy. He wonders when he came back to the inn and questions her about last night's celebration, especially about Fabrissa. Madame Galy says she didn't see him at town hall and thought he didn't want to go since her husband hadn't heard him leave the inn.
Later in the day, he gets a fever and Madame Galy cares for him subtly. Freddie remarks his mother hadn't cared for him this much. When he is better, the Breillac family comes to the inn to assist with his car. He is obsessed with finding Fabrissa.
Freddie inisists on going with them and on the way, casually questions about Fabrissa and the celebrations. Micheal, the father, says he didn't see him there and his son, Guillaume, translates the thick regional accent.
Freddie knows it was Fabrissa's voice he heard in the mountains after his accident. After they come to the car, the Breillacs tamper with it and Freddie wonders away. He inspects the mountains and Guillaume tells him it could take 4 to 5 days for a proper mechanic to fix it. Freddie questions Guillaume about the caves and if it was possible for people to hide.
The family then decides to wait for someone to arrive from another town to tow it. Freddie says he will stay back and Micheal warns of the ghosts in the mountains. After Breillacs leave, Freddie explores the valley and ends up near the caves. He hears the voice and it gets louder as he nears a particular spot.
He comes across a blocked entrance and picks some stones away. Inside, he finds evidence of a settlement and finally, whithered bodies. A piece of paper is found on the floor and Freddie tucks it away. As he goes deeper, he begins seeing ghosts. He then sees blue fabric and concludes that the body belongs to Fabrissa.
He is saddened and passes out.
Weeks later, he is in the hospital and Madame Galy, who tells him about her dead son and that every family in the village lost a son, visits him. On Christmas Eve, Guillaume visits to give him the paper from the caves. It was Guillaume that saved Freddie and says that a figure in blue guided him but he is uncomfortable with the idea of ghosts.
Micheal sent his thanks to Freddie as the caves had been cleared and bodies given a proper burial. Life returned to Nulle since the spirits were appeased and tourism has increased. The people who died were prosecuted by the Catholic Church for being followers of Catharism.
In present time, Freddie has become a confident, working man. Saurat translates the note and it was Fabrissa's last diary entry before her death. Freddie visits Nulle frequently since it is a second home to him and keeps the note.
Best part of story, including ending:
It was difficult to warm up to it since it was a steam of consciousness for the first 100 pages. It become interesting after Freddie enters the inn.
Best scene in story:
The chemistry between Fabrissa and Freddie during the celebrations was well written and intriguing. It showed Freddie eventually coming to terms with his brother's death.
Opinion about the main character:
He isn't incredibly interesting, just very depressed but his internal struggle was endearing.
paul bennett on 6/18/2016 4:01:27 PM says: love the historical accuracies, the local dialect, occitan, together with the description of the Royal Sussex Regt badge. The medieval setting is intriguing and adds a mysticism to the whole novel.This book could very easily be made into a low budget film without too much difficulty, parts of South Wales could easily double for SW France, the foothills of the Pyrenees for example.