Meet the Ocelots: An Interview with Frédéric from Overture
Welcome to this second instalment in our Meet the Ocelots Blog Hop! We hope you enjoy our posts and meeting our characters.
I’m delighted to introduce you to a handsome, well-mannered Frenchman, Frédéric Grandcourt. He is an important character in Vanessa Couchman’s wonderful novel, Overture, which tells us about how Marie-Thérèse, a country girl from rural Aveyron, ends up in Paris and pursues her love of singing. You can discover which role Frédéric plays in Marie-Thérèse’s life in the book. It’s well worth a read!
I’m welcoming him into my salon which I have designed to meet his approval. Imagine beautiful French furnishings, cushioned chairs and chaise longues and damask drapes surrounding the double doors to the garden.
Bonjour, Frédéric. How lovely to meet you! I have heard many great things about you from Marie-Thérèse. Please make yourself comfortable.
May I offer you a refreshment?
Frédéric: Thank you, Madame, or may I call you Cathie? You wouldn’t by any chance have a glass of champagne? I do find it lightens one’s mood, don’t you?
You are so right, and yes, please call me Cathie. There we are.
You are a man of the world, and you’ve travelled far and wide. What do you make of my salon?
Frédéric: Delightful. A very restful but refined ambience.
Oh, thank you. You're very kind. Now, to yourself. What triggered your love of music?
Frédéric: My parents engaged a piano teacher for my sisters so that they could learn an accomplishment suitable for young ladies. I was very taken with the sound of the piano, although the keyboard didn’t always sing under my sisters’ fingers! I pestered my parents to let me take lessons, too. I also took singing lessons, but I will never be more than competent in that line.
Do you play any instruments?
Frédéric: The piano, as I mentioned before. I was fortunate enough to inherit a rather wonderful Erard baby grand from my grandfather. It now has pride of place in my Paris apartment.
I can imagine. What a beautiful piece to inherit.
But tell me, what took you to Berthe’s restaurant that first evening you heard Marie-Thérèse sing? You are not from Aveyron, so wasn’t your visit somewhat unusual?
Frédéric: It is a little off my usual beaten path, but I had some business in that part of the city, and I happened to notice an advertisement for a special soirée, featuring food and entertainment from Aveyron. I do miss my native Normandy, so the opportunity to sample some rustic cuisine was appealing. I’m always on the lookout for new experiences – rather too much sometimes, Marie-Thérèse would say.
I do love Normandy, so I can empathise. Now, I’m curious about your childhood. Would you tell us a little more about it?
Frédéric: In many ways, my childhood was idyllic. As I’ve said, I was brought up in Normandy, and I was fortunate to be born to a loving and comfortable family. We lived in a large manoir surrounded by parkland and farmland. When I was in my teens, I discovered something about myself that cast rather a blight on this privileged existence, and which I wish to conceal from my family at all costs. My mother is not in good health.
I'm sorry to hear. A shock would not be beneficial to her health.
Now, in Overture, you look after Marie-Thérèse – or Ida, as she is known now – as her career takes off. How does it make you feel when you watch her perform?
Frédéric: I can’t begin to tell you all the sensations I feel when she sings. But suffice it to say that intense satisfaction and gratification are among them. Ida (her stage name) can transport you to the realm of the character she is playing. She is that character.
There is obviously a close bond between you two. At what point did you realise that Marie-Thérèse had a little crush on you?
Frédéric: Without wishing to sound immodest, I believe it was more than a little crush. I was naïve not to have noticed before, but I thought her devotion was, rather, gratitude for the help I had given to her career. It gradually grew on me that her feelings were more than that; but her behavior made it obvious when we were briefly alone together in my apartment one day after lunch.
I remember. A highly emotional encounter. How did her reaction to the truth make you feel?
Frédéric: Distressed and guilty that I hadn’t revealed more of myself and my history at an earlier date. I am deeply fond of Marie-Thérèse as a dear friend, but more than that isn’t possible. I wouldn’t wish to embarrass her by saying more.
Absolutely not. You are a staunch supporter of her, despite the stressful schedule. Where do you see her career going?
Frédéric: Ida has a remarkable voice. She’s already conquered some of the most prestigious opera houses in France and has begun to spread her wings to other countries. I’ve always had ambitions for her to appear in America, but my plans were temporarily curtailed by an accident. As the situation in Europe deteriorates, I feel that America is the obvious place for her. Her one flaw is a natural reticence that sometimes holds her back, but it’s countered by her burning ambition.
And what will Frédéric do should she decide she no longer wants to tread the boards all the time? Will she still need you?
Frédéric: I hope that she will continue while her voice allows it. If not, that must be her decision, and, while I would regret it, I feel we will always need each other on a personal level.
You are indeed a good friend. What do you wish most for Marie-Thérèse / Ida?
Frédéric: That she continues to realise her ambitions, but that she finds happiness, too. I have a suspicion that there is something still missing from her life.
And for yourself?
Frédéric: That I can come to terms with myself and find peace. Goodness, I am being candid. It must be the champagne.
Thank you so much for your time, Frédéric. I appreciate you coming here despite your busy schedule. I wish you all the very best.
Frédéric: Merci infiniment, Cathie. It’s been a delight to talk to you. And the champagne was perfect.
She has a unique talent, but everything conspires against her dreams.
France, 1897. Born to a modest farming family, Marie-Thérèse has a remarkable singing voice and wants to become a professional singer. But too many obstacles, including her parents' opposition, stand in her way. And, through no fault of her own, she makes a dangerous enemy of the local landlord.
When the family circumstances change suddenly, Marie-Thérèse and her mother must move to Paris to work in her aunt's restaurant. Her ambitions rekindle, but the road to success is paved with setbacks until a chance meeting gives her a precious opportunity.
She is close to achieving all her dreams, but the ghosts of the past come back to haunt her and threaten Marie-Thérèse's life as well as her career.
Overture is the first in a trilogy set in France, starting in 1897 and finishing at the end of World War II.
Overture, the first in the L’Alouette Trilogy, is available on Amazon
and is reduced for a short time from £2.99 or equivalent to 99p/99c!
About Vanessa Couchman:
Vanessa is a self-confessed “history nut”. She moved to Southwest France in 1997, where she indulges her passion for wandering around ancient towns and villages and imagining how they were in times past.
She has published two novels set on Corsica and Overture, which is Book 1 in the Alouette trilogy set in France between 1897 and 1945. A collection of her short stories set in France was published in 2017.
Follow her Amazon author page: http://author.to/VanessaCouchman.