The French House – Helen Fripp

This is the debut novel from this author and when I picked it up, I knew little of the subject matter and the history of Champagne. And if truth be known I am not a big fan of it – the drink not the book.

The book is simply fizzing with romance, intrigue, war, grief and the history of one of the most well know brands known across the globe.

Nicole as a young girl liked nothing more than running around the village and knew all the locals to chat to, she became friendly with people below her elevated position and when she finds the man she wants to marry it isn’t about what her parents want, it is about what she wants.

That is how Nicole finds herself married to Francois Clicquot and wandering through the vineyards they both decide to make this their present and their future. But this idyll is short-lived when bade weather, bitter grapes and poor harvests along with war in far off lands where their product was popular causes problems.

Suddenly alone, Nicole finds herself as the Veuve and is determined to make a success – but she has some barriers to face and not just the vineyards, but exploding bottles, gossiping neighbours, close rivals, war and missing salesman.

Helen Fripp weaves the Napoleonic Wars of the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century into the story at time as the background to the events of Nicole and the other main characters; Xavier; Louis; Natasha and the enigma that was Teresa who brought a rather different view of how women should behave in these times.

At other points the Napoleonic Wars were very much in the foreground and I learnt as I wandered how a war seemingly fought a long way away, came to these remote French villages where there was no desire for war just to live peaceably and with everyone they love. War doesn’t make that possible and times there was some horrific scenes which took me right back to these times.

Through it all Nicole had a determination not seen by many and should be recognised as a strong woman very much in a man’s world who somehow overcame it all and became a force to be reckoned with and recognised.

I adored this book, it reminds me of my great love of historical fiction and was an part of history which I knew little about and also even less about the great Champagne houses. How wonderful to discover that a woman was behind one of the greatest much to the chagrin of most. Historical fiction is of course just that but what it does and this book does it in abundance is open your eyes and the world up to reading much more about these fabulous women who have shaped history, who have made an impact and should be recognised much more. It reminded me why I love history.

A great read and I will certainly be looking to learn more from Helen Fripp in the future.


Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

The French House is published on 4th March.