Elizabeth Hall brings the reader to end of 19th century/early 20th century France and then United states with this sad drama story that follows the life of Adrienne Beaver. A third person narrator brings us to the early years of Adrienne’s life with jumps between important moments of Adrienne’s life on each chapter. She’s a very young girl surrounded by richness in the south of France living in her grand-father’s castle near Beaulieu (not actually the current city of Beaulieu-sur-mer). Happiness and joy surround her and we see her attachment to her grand-father given an absent important diplomat father who cheats on her mother who doesn’t seem to have the guts to react and an authoritative and somewhat absent widow aunt focused on her son’s success in life since her husband’s death.

We discover quickly that Adrienne sees things and quickly that those visions reveal true facts from both far away and close by as well as the near present or past or distant future. However, she doesn’t control her abilities nor does she understand them and, being a child, she just shares her visions openly regardless of their effects on people. It is this way that the Beaulieu community starts gossiping about the unfaithful father of the girl, the affairs of the baker and her unborn sisters’ hair color. Her grand-father is not surprised as we discover that his wife too had a similar ability.

Through that ability, Adrienne attracts her aunt Marie’s animosity by putting at risk her elaborate lies to protect Adrienne’s cousin, her aunt’s son, called Julien, a young man who suddenly abandoned his diplomacy studies in Paris to become a priest in the Americas. As chapters roll, the time passes and Adrienne gets more attached to her grand-father and more distant or angry at her aunt. Adrienne’s mother, Geneviene is more worried about trying to have her husband, Pierre, spend more time with them (and hopefully cease his unfaithful activities) in Beaulieu instead of Paris where he works as a diplomat. The grand-father protects Adrienne from her aunt keeping the peace in the house and letting Lucie, the governess, take care of Adrienne. Life grows easily while Marie is in New Mexico helping Julien at a remote church. Adrienne sees him being poisoned minutes before the family gets announced both of them are back and Julien is sick. Marie’s stressed presence turns everyone’s life a little harder but, with grand-father around, peace is maintained.

Unfortunately, as with all humans, Adrienne’s grand father is old and passes away a few months before Adrienne’s sister, Emelie, is born when Adrienne is 7. In his dying bed, he asks Adrienne to be careful about sharing her visions which causes the little girl to shut down on herself and stop sharing anything to anyone. We follow the rest of her early life through the chapters as more visions cause Adrienne to hate her ability while losing the desire to interact with anyone except her little sister and her governess, Lucie. An invitation from her father to the family and the young little brother Adrienne got a few years before changes her vision of life. She meets Gerard, a young diplomat who works with her father and he falls in love with her dragging her out of her pit of sadness. After a few visits, he proposes and they decide to announce it when her father comes back from a work trip in a couple of weeks.

At this point, Adrienne’s visions increase even more her fear and desire to be away from her aunt. She is worried and she feels Gerard is her only option. The following events change Adrienne’s life and drag the reader into a set of revelations that destroys Adrienne’s life through about 15 chapters. The last 3 chapters switch to focus on Marie and Julien as we discover how the rest of their life evolved.

Although very sad and quite depressing, the book highlights serious issues around nobility, reactions of society against people who are different, complex human relationships and the church. I would not recommend it unless you are cheerful enough to handle a few depressing hours and thing about the many atrocities that individuals can cause while still appearing perfectly normal towards society. In this book, Elizabeth spares nobody from guilt except for the children (in which Adrienne qualifies). Everybody has one or many sins and she shows we are ruled by them. She also presents a world were the worst is your offense, the less likely it is that you’ll be punished for it.
Overall, a good book to think about society, human behaviors and reactions although it is almost guaranteed to make you feel a little worst about everything once you finish.