Cover Image: A Single Rose

A Single Rose

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Member Reviews

Beautifully written a book of grief a book of healing.So emotional so thoughtful I enjoyed from first to last page.#netgalley #europabooks
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Zen and Esoteric Shadows
Reading this novel was a bit of a trial for me. It is much about becoming Japanese. Discovering the Zen of life. Reading Hiku and truly understanding it. My point is that I understood nothing but gobbledegook. I am sure that most readers will love this book, but it is not my cup of tea. I received this ARC book for free from Net Galley and this is my honest review.
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Forty year old botanist Rose (note not so subtle choice of name – kind of sets the tone for the whole novel) has never known her Japanese father, leaving her untethered – naturally. When he dies she is summoned to Kyoto to hear the will read. Initially hostile and defensive, she is soon won over by handsome Paul, her father’s assistant (conveniently widowed) and finds herself drawn into her father’s world as she embarks on a journey of discovery and self-discovery against a background of Japan’s traditions and beauty with a bit of Zen thrown in. If this sounds banal and trite as a plot summary, then that is because it is. I wasn’t convinced at all by this novel, which is peppered by facile observations such as “the world is like a cherry tree one has not looked at for three days.” I don’t even understand what this actually means, but I guess it sounds good. And then there are the interludes between chapters, short fable-like folk tales, a bit of cod psychology to give the reader a way in to the next bit of the narrative in case we aren't smart enough to work it out for ourselves. I had to give up with these interludes after a while. All in all, I found the novel dull and saccharine, and was glad to get to the disappointing and unsatisfactory ending.
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This quiet, thoughtful book has so much to say about grief and the healing process, which is different for everyone and every situation. An excellent recommendation for readers who enjoy traditional women's fiction but want more depth and introspection.
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Rose got a phone call from her estranged father's lawyer, asking her to come to Japan for the reading of his will.  Her father had made an itinerary and his assistant Paul was there to begin the journey. As they went through the Zen Gardens, she not only learned about her father, but also much about herself.  
She learns about the  culture of Japan,  the  stones and the trees in the Zen gardens, and what the different things meant.  As she was doing this, it seemed it was leading her to whom she was going to become.
I received an ARC for this book from Europa Editions through NetGalley.
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Rose did not know her father Haru Unem.  Now, after his death, she travels to Japan for the reading of his will and meets Paul, his assistant, who guides her through an itinerary meant to acquaint her with who her father was.  It's an emotional journey for her and she learns as much about herself as she does about her father.  Barbery has packed a lot into this novella.  The descriptions are gorgeous, if a bit overwritten.  Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.  For those looking for a lyrical tale of forgiveness.
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I just loved Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog, with its acerbic tone but poignant message.  This short book is entirely different.  Rose is a 40-year old Parisian botanist who has never met or even communicated with her father, Haru Ueno, an art dealer who lives in Kyoto.  Now Ueno has died and she has been summoned to Kyoto for the reading of his will.

The reading doesn’t happen right away.  Rose is put up in Haru’s home, waited on by his longtime housekeeper and driver, and taken out daily by his friend and assistant, Paul.  Paul is a Belgian national, but a longtime resident of Japan, a widower with a 10-year-old daughter.  Can you tell where this is going?  Well, you’re right, but we go a lot of other places before that.

Every day, Paul takes Rose to another temple that meant something to Haru.  He also takes her to tea houses, bars and restaurants.  Barbery lyrically describes the trees and flowers, the food and drink, even the weather.  Japan is so entirely different from France that these observations sometimes have a sense of wonder, sometimes of frustration.  There is additional frustration for Rose in that she has never understood why her father never got in touch with her and her mother never told her.

Finally, the day comes for the reading of the will and, more strikingly, a letter that Haru wrote to Rose as he was dying.  And that’s that.  There are still many unanswered questions, including why Barbery chose to write this story.  I didn’t dislike reading it, but it’s too subtle for me; I don’t know what I was supposed to make of it.
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In this latest Barbery novel (translated from the French by Alison Anderson) she once more delicately explores the life and feelings of a less than settled woman, Rose. As the novel progresses we understand that her mother – who has separated herself from Rose’s Japanese father – was suffering from mental issues. Rose lived with grandmother who provided the stability of her life both before and after her mother committed suicide. After the death of her grandmother Rose has chosen to isolate herself more and more from other people – with her isolation comes a deep depression and unhappiness.
She will receive a message - her father has died and she is invited to fly to Japan and stay for some days before the official reading of his will. On arrival she is welcomed at her father’s traditional house that lies just outside the city. She will slowly meet the small cluster of people who mixed with him most closely. Over the next few days she will be taken on a series of visits to see the culture and cuisine of Japan (a place she has never visited). But her routine will not be as casual as it first appears, she will be directed to a series of ancient Japanese temples in their gardens and landscapes. All of them are subtly different, but their atmospheres start to reach deep into her soul.
Barbery’s glorious and vivid writing has the ability to take the reader to these places creating not just the vision, but the atmosphere, weather and smells and the sheer visceral presence of Rose’s experiences.  She starts to understand her father as a man and more gradually his values and beliefs. First she comes to understand why he never contacted her while he was alive – a promise to her mother - but also that this planned invitation was his way of offering her the deepest and most important parts of his life As Rose undertakes this quiet pilgrimage she will learn to value his culture but will also lay down the courage and willingness to open her life to a new direction.
This novel – even setting aside the story line – is an exquisite depiction of old Japan and its culture and places of deep devotion. It shows an ancient and inspiring religious heritage that requires a melding of the layers of the physical and natural world to expand the human consciousness.  Each chapter links to a small experience of Japanese literature or poetry so this book also acts as a positive guide to old Japanese culture that carries very different roots to that in the Western world. But it subtly points that at the same time this is already being overtaken by modern international lifestyle and standards.  Together this makes it an intelligent, moving and inspirational read that opens the reader’s eyes to Barbery’s second but much appreciated home as it lures the reader into a quiet and contemplative place of the mind.
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2.5★s
“It had stopped raining. She became aware of the pervasive silence, a horizontal silence, pure and incomprehensible— it makes no sense, she thought. And yet the silence hovered over the pathways, and she felt she was slicing through it just below hip level, that it was creating a layer of invisible waves between stone and air.”

A Single Rose is the fifth novel by French author, Muriel Barbery. It is translated from the original French by Alison Anderson. Rose, a forty-year-old French botanist travels to Kyoto for the reading of the will of the father she has never met. From modest beginnings, Haru Ouen became a respected and very wealthy contemporary art dealer.

In the days leading up to her visit to the lawyer, Haru’s Belgian assistant, mentee and friend, Paul shows Rose around a number of temples and a cemetery, according to her father’s wishes. They share meals, tea and drinks at various restaurants, yakitori vendors and tea houses. Initially Rose is hostile, snarky: “What can he give me now?” she asked. “What can absence and death give me? Money? An apology? Lacquered tables?”

Given the bones of this story, the prospective reader could be forgiven for thinking that, in the hands of the author who crafted The Elegance of The Hedgehog and The Gourmet, this would be a sweet and charming read. The reality is a little different.

The first chapters are filled with dense, long-winded descriptions of scenery, flowers, food and drink: an overdose even for those who love Japan, love flowers. Barbery’s protagonist is not at all appealing, angry and insulting, and her about-face towards the end is almost comically sudden.

Barbery prefaces each chapter with a folk story/fable that is reflected in some aspect of the narrative that follows it. There is a surfeit of symbolism, often presented in virtually impenetrable passages which might appeal to the more cerebral reader. Or perhaps this is a product of the translation. The copious use of flowery imagery together with Barbery’s failure to show rather than tell will leave many readers disappointed. Not Barbery’s best work.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Europa Editions.
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I just finished this wonderful little book a few minutes ago… while spinning on the bike. I’l write a review in a day or two.

It was THE PERFECT book  I needed right now!
I’m embarrassed to say how much I feel like crying —
Instead - I’ll just take a walk — and enjoy nature’s beauty!  
5 easy stars - for the feelings that move me most in life:
LOVE!

Thank you soooooo MUCH!!! I loved it more than I can express - and am very grateful having read it. 
I’ll return to leave a more complete review soon …right now I’m basking  in the feelings …
Thank you sooo much Europa Editions - Netgalley and Muriel Barberry! I LOVE YOU!!

I’m back…
         “A Single Rose” is about a woman, named Rose, who goes to Kyoto, Japan, [her first trip ever], after her estranged father, Haru Unen, died - to receive the reading of the will e left for her.
The journey that Rose takes isn’t anything she could have 
predicted. Readers might feel some predictability coming down the pipes (in fact I’m sure of it), but holy moly ….most readers won’t mind one bit……and can easily be read in one or two sittings.  

If readers have read “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”…and loved its bittersweet story — there is a great chance, (although a completely different tale), the same mutual feelings will be felt again with kindred souls blossoming along side Cherry trees. 

Rose will meet several friends and acquaintances of her father: a potter, a poet, a lady friend, his housekeeper, and chauffeur.
Paul, Haru’s old assistant, is the person who gives Rose day trip experiences of Japan.
During their adventures in restaurants, temples, galleries, rivers, eating yummy foods, drinks, … while taking in the environmental beauty, ….
the dialogue between Paul and Rose is priceless- witty- funny- thought provoking- tender and moving.
Under their talks….some humor and sarcasm….they are covertly opening up more serious life conversations >  gently, subtly, and purely.  

Readers will be treated to book-side-experiences of Japan, too….
I’m a big peonie fan…so I was in heaven … other plants mention our Japanese irises, lilacs, azaleas, camellia bushes, hollow bamboo, maple, etc.  The hills are green and blue. The zen stones, tatami mats, rivers with herons along the banks give us a feeling of being transported to Japan ourselves. 

Lots of Sake and beer… Matcha green tea, raw fish, octopus tentacles, orange sea urchins, Ginger, tuna sushi, vinegary rice, White radishes, onions, roots, local sprouts, balls filled with steaming bullion, plump white noodles, toasted sesame seeds, raw veggies, udon > “you eat, and then you start over”

We learn more about Rose’s father - his business - is purpose - his skills and charms. 
We also learn a little more about Rose’s mother - and about Paul. 

Best of all for me was Rose’s character herself.  She said she came from a monomaniacal family; her mother was all sadnesses. She was all anger. 
Ha…she herself might say that she was not only a botanist, but apparently “a pain in the ass”.

Themes of love, loss, death, understanding, growth, anger, forgiveness, and redemption take place. Over its all about love.

A few sample excerpts:
     “Maybe life is no more than a picture you can see from behind a tree. We are offered life as a whole, but we can only see it through a succession of viewpoints. Depression makes you blind to perspectives. Life as a whole crushes you”. 

     “Rose preferred cats to men. She valued flowers and plants but was kept from them by an invisible veil that overshadowed their beauty and deprived them of life— and yet she felt that something, in that bark, those familiar corollas, quivered and sought to befriend her. But the years were passing, and the icy water of her nightmares, a black water in which she was slowly drowning, gradually came to dominate her days”. 

     “If a person is not prepared to suffer, they are not prepared to live”. 

Thank you Netgalley, Europa Editions, and Muriel Barbery
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The setting: "..a woman's journey to discover the father she never knew and a love she never thought possible.

Rose has just turned forty when she gets a call from a lawyer asking her to come to Kyoto for the reading of her estranged father's will. And so for the first time in her life she finds herself in Japan, where Paul, her father's assistant, is waiting to greet her.

As Paul guides Rose along a mysterious itinerary designed by her deceased father, her bitterness and anger are soothed by the stones and the trees in the Zen gardens they move through." 

Add her father's housekeeper and chauffeur to the mix as well as Beth, an English woman who she comes across.

Primarily a story of forgiveness, with a dash of love and family. Rose never really knew her father yet she comes to Japan to follow an itinerary he has set out for her prior to the reading of his will. She is a solitary person. who is struggling with the whole scenario and yet...

Early on I figured out one of the trajectories [a detraction for me]. And I was never really engaged. I always wonder about a translation...

I did enjoy reading about the zen gardens, temples, and landscapes. BUT. Thankfully a short book.

Requested because I enjoyed Barbery's previous book, The Elegance of the Hedgehog. This one--not as much.

Disclaimer: I think it was too cerebral for me.
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A lovely story about love, loss ancient wisdom and how to overcome melancholy and start over again .
Poetic.
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A Single Rose by Muriel Barbery is a beautifully written book about love, forgiveness, and family.  

Rose goes to Kyoto Japan for the reading of her fathers’ will.  A father who left her and her mother when she was just a baby.  A father she had never met and had never received any communications from him.  She’s resentful that he never contacted her, especially after her mother died a few years earlier.   

When she arrives in Japan, she meets Paul, her father’s assistant, and he takes her on a tour of the sites and temples around Kyoto.  This tour was pre-arranged by her father and through this tour, Rose learns more about her father and his love of Japan and his philosophies.  She meets several friends of her Father’s and learns more about him, and through them, learns about herself.  

This book is not an easy book to read, as it’s full of imagery and beautiful description.  But, it’s a wonderful story, set in a beautiful location so it’s worth reading. I did enjoy this book, even when reading through the passages of description slowed me down a bit.  

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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This is a mesmerizing, beautifully written historical novel about the Japanese people. It is also about love, family, and forgiveness and letting go. I had a hard time getting into it at first, but the descriptions and lyrical language pulled me in after a while. 

Thanks to, the author and publisher for an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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My sincere  thanks to Net Galley and Europa Editions, the publishers of outstanding books for sending me this novel for review

Rose comes to Japan for the reading of the will of Haru, her father, whom she never knew as her mother left him before her birth. Maud, her mother was very melancholic, totally alienated her from her husband and finally committed suicide leaving behind her daughter in the care of her grandmother who died two years later. Hence, is no wonder that Rose, now forty, though having had a happy childhood, also succumbs to her mother’s depression. She has no inclination to happiness, no friends, merely a host of unsuccessful and unsatisfactory love affairs. 

Barbery presents her living in a void. She continually uses the imagery of icy water—congealed water, struggling in black water, the feeling that she is drowning—to describe her life before she arrives in Japan. She is a botanist by profession and, hence, her interest in flowers has so far only been academic. 


But no sooner does she have her bath after reaching Japan, than the country starts working its charms on her and her transformation begins from a cold, spoilt, stubborn woman to one who has the capacity to feel, love and enjoy life. The ice which has congealed like a splinter in her heart gradually melts and becomes life giving water, soothing rain. Soon after her bath she has an “inexplicable feeling of fervor. A spring is bubbling within her. The falling rain made the world evanescent. Even her tears at the end of the novel are therapeutic. She is transformed from a mere  botanist; she is enthralled by the beauty of the vegetation,  the magnolia, cherry and maple trees, ferns and velvety moss. Visiting temples she is overcome by their beautiful gardens and their calming effect of the temples.

Barbery also uses color to show Rose’s transformation. When she wakes from jet lag her first morning in Japan to see “a red peony with sullen petals.” She is full of negative emotions, which Barbery describes as the “whiff of regret or flown happiness.” By the time the novel ends Barbery uses strong  images to show Rose’s transformation: bold red carnations, carmine color, intense red lanterns like a lighthouse in the dark, azaleas pink and purple hosts.

Paul, a Belgian living in Japan for the last 20 years was her Haru’s secretary. It is through him that she learns about the father she has never known. He tells her that her father talked of her all the time and his greatest regret was he could never give her anything during his lifetime. He tells her about Haru’s modest beginnings and the success he became in Kyoto as a dealer in contemporary art, his irresistible charm, his natural talent for business, coupled with the fact that he was not in the least devoted to money.

To safeguard herself from the world Rose has created impenetrable barriers to ward of further pain and suffering. But in Japan she learns If a person is not prepared to suffer, he is not prepared to live. All the characters living in Japan have had their fair share of suffering whether they are Japanese or not: Paul has lost his wife and Beth, an English woman, has lost her twenty year old son to suicide. Keisuke Shibata’s family was completed erased by the bomb, he lost his wife and daughter in an earthquake, his eldest son died in a driving accident and the younger son probably drowned in a flood. Japanese don’t mind the suffering they are subjected to and in recompense for taking their suffering in their stride the gods send them exquisite gardens where they come to tea. 

Both Paul as well a Rose are damaged people but Barbery skilfully brings them together with her usual sensitivity and finesse. 

Barbery has again written a poetic and sensitive novel.
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Rose travels to Kyoto for the reading of the will of a father she never knew. Her fathers assistant Paul escorts her to various temples and other points of interest  in order for Rose to get a sense of her fathers homeland. As a botanist Rose  appreciates the natural beauty of the city and begins to feel a sense of peace and belonging. The writing is exquisite- so descriptive in its detail of the various flowering plants, trees and shrubs that Rose encounters every day. Each chapter begins with a glimpse  into Japans history. This is a quick and enjoyable read.
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