Madame Verona Comes Down the Hill, Paperback
4.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


Years ago, Madame Verona and her husband built a home for themselves on a hill in a forest above a small village.

There they lived in isolation, practising their music, and chopping wood to see them through the cold winters.

When Mr Verona died, the locals might have expected that the legendary beauty would return to the village, but Madame Verona had enough wood to keep her warm during the years it would take to make a cello - the instrument her husband loved - and in the meantime she had her dogs for company. And then one cold February morning, when the last log has burned, Madame Verona sets off down the village path, with her cello and her memories, knowing that she will have no strength to climb the hill again.

Poignant, precise and perfectly structured, this is a story of one woman's tender and enduring love - as a wife, and as a widow.




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Review by

If the love of your life were to die while you were still young, how would you choose to live the remainder of your life? Madame Verona, as she is known to the villagers, is not a native of the hamlet at the foot of the mountain. She and her husband have bought a remote house and surrounding woods because "'this is a house you could die in and it's a house you could be unhappy in. We'd be mad not to take it'". Deeply in love, the couple didn't realize how soon their off-hand remark would come to be. <i>When the abandoned were still lovers, they had sworn that they didn't want to live without each other, they had given each other power of attorney over the meaning of their existence and the disappearance of one would have cried out for the disappearance of the other. With the elderly that is often a natural process: if one drops dead, the other hurries to the grave without any extra effort on their part. But young adults are not yet capable of dying like swans; their hearts are able to bear grief...</i> For Madame Verona, who always has a stray dog at her heals, it is the dog's needs that keep her moving forward, step by step, "and so, before she knew it, Madame Verona had been drawn into living on for her allotted span."The majority of the story is told from the perspective of members of the village. Vignettes of life in the little community are wonderfully pastoral and funny, and their interactions with and opinions of Madame Verona are simple and askew. The story moves between the villagers' perspective and Madame Verona's memories and present thoughts to create a pastiche that is charming but not cloying. Without melodrama, the author writes of love and grief and life in a way that encompasses the noble and the mundane.Being from a small town myself, I couldn't help but chuckle at the oddities and tall tales of the villagers, and I loved the simple and sonorous language of the book. Often, I would read passages aloud and savor the sounds and images. In less than 150 pages, I was entertained and touched by the lives and loves of the characters. Warm and gentle, this novel was a wonderful holiday read.

Review by

Elegiacal and melancholy novella about grief, set on a mythic hill in a small mountain village where one woman's loyalty to the memory of love for her husband is recorded in small acts of devotion to the stray dogs who have always sought her out and to the memory of that rarest of things in life -- a soul mate.At the same time, this is not a sad book; rather, it is a triumphant one in that Madame Verona wills and is able to dictate the time and place of her own last moments of life. She does not brood nor mope during her remaining span of years but she does honor what she had with her composer husband by finding ways to cultivate the memories of their happiness.Two artists -- at least one of them was able to excel in the "art of dying."

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