How It Happened in Peach Hill by Marthe Jocelyn

Fifteen-year-old Annie and her mother, Madame Caterina, roam from town to town in order to cheat people and collect their money. Annie’s mother poses as a clairvoyant and she makes people believe that she can communicate with the dead. She has many strategies, but when the duo arrives in Peach Hill, Madame Caterina has a new idea – Annie must pretend to be an idiot. That way, the young girl can gather information about clients and make her mother’s business a success. But Annie is a clever girl who yearns to be normal, to attend school and to make friends. However, her mother doesn’t really want Annie to do all these things, as her daughter is her best weapon when it comes to her shady work. As the story evolves, the young girl dares to break out of her role and learn to tell the truth.

How It Happened in Peach Hill is an entertaining and engaging coming-of-age story; it’s the tale of a young girl who has to make painful decisions and learn what she really wants in life. Annie is a fifteen-year-old who is torn between her duty towards her mother and her desire to be herself. On the one hand, she loves her mother and helps her with her work as a spiritual advisor even though she knows it’s wrong, but on the other hand, she wants to be just like every other teenager and longs to make her own decisions. However, her mother is not really interested in Annie’s happiness. She is a selfish person who sets a bad example for her daughter; she teaches her daughter to deceive and cheat people in order to get rich. Madame Caterina completely ignores Annie’s dreams and beliefs since she sees her daughter as a source of income. When Annie begins to understand these things, she is determined to break free and become her own person. The young girl shows courage and strength and she is ready to do anything in order to be independent, even though it means to part with her mother.

Annie is a great character and that’s why I liked this book so much. I admired her and I shared the thrill with her when she stepped closer to her independence. I also liked the other characters, as they were engaging and well drawn.

Furthermore, I liked the book’s themes because they are effective and important. Although the story takes place in the 1920s, its themes are very modern and the characters’ problems and dilemmas can be found in our every day society. Many teenagers have to cope with selfish parents and it’s hard for them to break free when their parents are too controlling and think they know what’s best for their children even though it may not always be true.

Overall, I was really pleased with How It Happened in Peach Hill because it’s a wonderful story about courage, morals, dreams and decisions. It was very intriguing to catch a glimpse of a clairvoyant’s life and to see behind the curtain of this alluring world. What I also liked about this novel was the fact that there were old wives’ tales at the beginning of each chapter. They are relevant for the plot and I found them really entertaining!

Ever since I read Marthe Jocelyn’s book Folly, I wanted to read more works by this author and I am glad that I read How It Happened in Peach Hill since it was just as wonderful. I am looking forward to the author’s future books!

I would like to thank Casey Lloyd from Random House for sending me a copy of this engaging book!



7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Marthe Jocelyn
    Jun 02, 2010 @ 16:55:21

    Thanks for the great review, Andreea! I hope you help bring this book back to more readers!

    Since you seem to like historical novels, try my other two:
    Earthly Astonishments
    Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Peril, Humdrum, and Romance.

    Happy reading…



  2. Nymeth
    Jun 02, 2010 @ 17:56:11

    You and your wonderful books from/set in the early 20th century….you’re dangerous, Andreea 😛


  3. vivienne
    Jun 02, 2010 @ 17:57:04

    I have nearly finished reading We Hear The Dead, which has similar themes to your book. The two main characters are fraudsters who have convinced thousands that they can communicate with spirits. It is set in the 1800’s and is based on the true lives of Maggie and Kate Fox. I think you would enjoy it.


  4. Lua
    Jun 02, 2010 @ 18:37:28

    I love coming-of-age stories; I love all the crossroads and the process of decision making… I love witnessing all the growing pains and the outcomes.
    And if it’s a historical novel- all the better!
    Thank you for the great review Andreea, Nymeth is right, you are dangerous 🙂


  5. Kathleen
    Jun 03, 2010 @ 19:45:01

    Struggling to break away from one’s parents and become your own person is definitely a universal theme. I can remember being in a battle of wits with my mother growing up (we are very close now) so I always enjoy and relate to these story elements.


  6. Grad
    Jun 04, 2010 @ 15:41:32

    This sounds so good – and yet another author I had not heard about before. Thanks!


  7. Melissa
    Jun 08, 2010 @ 23:21:54


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