“Madame Pommery” review by Julie Porter.
“Madame Pommery” by Rebecca Rosenberg is a captivating novel about a woman’s struggle to survive war, run her own business in a male dominated society, provide a future for her children, and create something beautiful, unique, and lasting.
Alexandrine, in the middle of her journey, is close to her 50’s and still recovering from the death of her husband, Louis. She is trying to retain a brave front for her two-year-old daughter, Louise, and curtailing the sharp criticisms from her school aged son, who blames his father’s death on his need to return to work after Louise’s surprise birth.
Alexandrine also has to contend with the loss of her family finances and that unless something is done soon, they will be left destitute.
Alexandrine’s character arc shows her challenging the role expected of her as an upper-class Frenchwoman. She was originally someone who read and followed etiquette books to the letter and got involved in philanthropic activities like teaching and helping reformed prostitutes all with a sense of detachment and noblesse oblige.
After her husband’s death those detached standards no longer exist when she has to be the sole breadwinner. At Louis’ funeral, she responds with emotion and breaks the protocol because of her grief. She realizes for the first time that these etiquette rules are no substitute for human emotions like grief or loss. This moment cements Alexandrine as a woman who is willing to challenge expectations to acknowledge her independence.
Many of Alexandrine’s ideas end up being beneficial for her company and makes Pommery stand out. One of them is to specialize in champagne which she prefers to wine and is often used for special events occasions so it attracts a higher clientele. Many of Alexandrine’s ideas come about by her own ingenuity.
Rosenberg has given us a great historical fiction about an amazing woman, an historical fiction that is sweeter than a glass of wine or a flute of brut champagne.
Rebecca Rosenberg is a champagne geek, lavender farmer, and author of books about glorious women of our past. The Champagne Widows series is about the real women who revolutionized champagne in the 1800’s despite pandemics, mental illness, laws against women owning businesses, years of war, and Napoleon himself.