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The Pleasing Hour

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  1,470 Ratings  ·  145 Reviews
The first novel from a new literary voice brimming with sensitivity and lyricism, The Pleasing Hour is the story of an American in Europe whose coming-of-age defies all our usual conceptions of naivete and experience. Fleeing a devastating loss, Rosie takes a job as an au pair with a Parisian family and soon finds the comfort and intimacy she longs for with their children ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published March 23rd 2010 by Grove Press (first published September 1st 1999)
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Aug 02, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While I found King's first effort well-written and compelling in the beginning, I was left disappointed and thoroughly annoyed by the time I finished it. The plot is uneven and rambling with many background stories of peripheral characters that are left incomplete and therefore frustratingly superfluous. Furthermore, even the main characters are never fully realized. We are given a rather complete history of Nicole, for example, her mother and childhood, only to be left with virtually no explana ...more
Renee Braverman

The Pleasing Hour

by Lily King

Rosie goes to Paris to be an au pair. Her baggage includes a motherless childhood and a teen pregnancy deliberately and secretly planned in order to give her barren sister a much-desired child. Being an au pair in Paris follows the delivery of the baby and is designed to separate herself from the baby she cannot acknowledge.

Rosie settles into her role as an au pair with the Tivot family, Nicole and Marc and their three children. We learn the history of each
Although King kept my attention with her story, I found some of the transitions awkward and the relationships between the characters somewhat unclear. We don’t know why Nicole is so resentful of Rosie from their first meeting or why she feels so close and trusting of her at the end. The bull fighting scene is very good as she depicts the same bull-killing scenes through the eyes of each of the characters. Symbolically, something could probably be made of this and the difficult problems that have ...more
Aug 20, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
After I read Euphoria I went in search of more of Lily King’s novels and happened on her first, The Pleasing Hour. I read about two thirds of it and put it down. It was a meandering novel that did not seem to know its business. It kept dropping characters I cared about to pick up on others I had no interest in. I still look forward to reading more of King’s work, as Euphoria was riveting.
Apr 02, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
The kick-off premise of the book was a bit overdramatic for what it needed to be to launch such a story, but that was almost forgivable after all. The characters were finely sketched, if incompletely (and this seems to be on purpose). The unignorable "summer romance" thread of the narrative made this sit on this reader's tongue like a strange fusion of a Babysitter's Club Super Special meets something Literary.

The true mastery of this book was creating a dastardly heroine that is pitiable becaus
Jul 08, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many of my happy buttons were pushed early on in this novel: France through the eyes of an American! Quirks and struggles of learning/speaking French in France! Did I mention that I like reading about France and French ;-) While it carried me through quite swiftly in the first half, I found myself skimming parts of Rosie's internal diaglogue until the end.
Nora Black
Apr 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book will capture your soul, you will grit your teeth, lament...find the snug warm emotion only family can give you, trip on the unsuspecting trials of sexual identity, bask in the heady light of burgeoning love. This novel is a journey rather than a story, a layered gateaux of sweet longing, bitter regrets and the strange duties deep affection puts on the ego. Destination, after all, is often not a place but a feeling of belonging, a sense of achievement a niche you fit into. For every hea ...more
Jun 29, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is a lot to like in this book. It it well plotted the reader is interested in the characters. The question I have to ask my self is this: why didn't I like the book more than I did? I think that Rosie at least for part of the story is suffering a bit from postpartum depression. This deadens the intensity of her feelings and as a consequence makes the book a bit dead too. Also there were too many lose ends for my taste. The lack of closure is very realistic but did not increase the entertai ...more
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The beginning was good and I was interested in all the characters. There were a handful of moments where the writer really surprised me with how good she is. Then it drags, becomes unfeasible and ends as abruptly as most French films. Not worth staying up late to finish...
Amy Geriak
Aug 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written novel from the perspectives of several characters. The story centers around an American girl working as an au pair in Paris. Lovely, and just my kind of book -- a perfect fit for me. I'd highly recommend it.
Aug 12, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This novel has received rave reviews, but I found it rather uninteresting. A young woman becomes an au pair for a Parisian family to escape her past & ends up falling in love with the father (I guess; even that's not altogether clear).
Mar 10, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Potentially could have been great...found the story very choppy and underdeveloped. Left not fully understanding Nicole's history and the point of it cold to Rosie at their first meeting and so trusting and friendly at the end, and not sure how that happened.
Feb 24, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Well-paced, bittersweet novel about a young American woman working as an au pair in France for the year.
More like 3.5 stars being the author's first novel.
A good story and good writing. The story deals with the struggle of 19 years old Rosie searching for love is touching, however the novel doesn't live up to the author's more recent work.
Sarah Ellison
The intersection of many different unfulfilled lives when an American teen flees to France to become an au pair. Interesting look at many different points of view as the year unfolds.
Robin Bahle
Mar 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 08, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ruby by: found it at the library
Shelves: novels
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The act of writing a first novel has a lot in common with being an au pair. Each is often accomplished by a young, overeducated woman who believes she is
the center of the universe. This can make for dull reading, and sometimes for unattended children falling down staircases. But Lily King's fine first novel--about
an au pair--neatly avoids the solipsism that often plagues coming-of-age stories. In The Pleasing Hour, 19-year-old Rosie has fled New Hampshire for France
after undergoing an anguishing
Jan 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read a REALLY beautiful book which I finished during a recent non-snow snow day! "The Pleasing Hour," by Lily King is the lyrical, moving, lush and gorgeous story of a young American girl who heads to Paris to be an au pair to a family with 4 children, the oldest being a teenaged girl struggling with her sexual identity. The family lives in a houseboat docked on the Seine. Rosie, the au pair, has fled her life in the states, after giving birth at age 19, but it's not what it seems. It was a pl ...more
Dec 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a true surprise for me. I found it in a dollar bin at Half Price books and I purchased it because some of the reviews were pretty positive. This book is so full of emotional truth and sharp observations that it left me thinking about it for days after having finished it. Amazingly, its author never loses the book to a pedantic or judging tone, which is no mean feat for so deeply probing a novel.

It's set in France and centers around an American girl who has gone to be an au pair fo
The Writing Reader
Aug 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)

An outstanding debut for an author who knows how to pull heart strings and minds in sync.

I cannot begin to explain how talented a writer that Lily King is. She writes confidently and elegantly: her words are like paint strokes upon a canvas.

With all of her well-deserved awards, I cannot understand why she doesn’t fly at the top of the New York Times list more often.

The characters in The Pleasing Hour will stir sympathy, envy, laughter, and coos.

Lily King’s resea
Dec 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very different from euphoria. Loved the dynamics. I like character driven stories. A few puzzles persist. Why did Nicole marry Marc in the first place: because he resembled the man she loved, from behind? What did Nicole do all day? She leaves the house, activities are implied but never confirmed. She is meant to be an enigma, so I guess it works. I've read other reviews just now. Lots of readers frustrated, but one question that was answered for me regarding Nicole's cold reception to Rosie in ...more
Feb 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I very much enjoyed reading The Pleasing Hour -- I'm actually quite surprised that Oprah hasn't chosen it for her book club. It's very much her type of book -- summer reading with a kick. The novel centers around a young American girl who literally runs away to Paris and becomes an au pair for a rather interesting family there. The Pleasing Hour deals not only with Rosie, the au pair, but delves into the characters of the entire Tivot family -- the distant and cold mother, the scattered father w ...more
Maayan Schwab
I did like this book a lot, but as I was reading, I kept wavering between giving it 3 and 4 stars. Ultimately, there were some bits of the story that felt disappointing, though not dramatically, and not to a degree that impacted my enjoyment. There was also a variation in the pace of the narrative, at times slow and even boring, and at others gripping and engaging. While I liked the characters a great deal, I didn't love any of them, really... or come to feel a connection to them. So: 3 stars. B ...more
While not as polished as Lily King's later novels, this first book held my interest. It is the story of Rosie, an American who comes to France to work as the family-helper and to escape and of Nicole, the mother in the French family that Rosie is working for. The novel starts, however, with Rosie helping Lucie, an elderly French woman who lives in rural Southern France. From there we go back and forth, learning both Rosie's and Nicole's stories. I liked the back and forth.

Along the way, we learn
I enjoyed this book because I identified with the main character's ambivalence about a lot of things; her decisions, some misguided and some loving; and her admitted, and very human, sloppiness compared to the polished, confident Nicole.

The characters of the Tivot children, and Lucie, were particularly well drawn. Marcelle and Octave, and Nicole and Marc's, relationships (and others) have a haunting, "gaping hole" quality to them -- through no fault of anyone's, the participants don't really co
Janis Williams
Jul 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent summer read, especially for those with unfulfilled longing for Paris or Provence. Our protagonist is an American au pair. The wealthy family she comes to live with live on a houseboat on the Seine. The mother has roots in Provence. A lot of this is set in the recently past present, if I can call it that. Time passes so quickly. (If the people don't have cell phones, what year is it?) Here's a quote which resonated with me. Our au pair has met some other au pairs in a Paris night club. ...more
Feb 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this book was excellent -- offering exactly what I cherish in a book: interesting plot, nuanced characters, subtle observations of people and relationships.

As other reviews accurately state, the basic premise of the book undersells the emotional depth. The book is about a young woman who flees an emotional family situation in the U.S. by becoming an au pair in France. While there, she falls in love with the father of the family. This may sound like cliched, well-traveled material, but
Connie Lacy
May 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading Lily King’s amazing novel, “Euphoria,” I wanted to read another of her books and chose “The Pleasing Hour.” Even this debut novel is quite accomplished. But King is a writerly author, not a readerly author, which can sometimes frustrate readers used to having everything spelled out for them. Rosie, the young main character, is sympathetic and her heartache is very real. Her desire to hide herself away as an au pair with a French family sets up an interesting set of characters for h ...more
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Lily King grew up in Massachusetts and received her B.A. in English Literature from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her M.A. in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. She has taught English and Creative Writing at several universities and high schools in this country and abroad. Lily's new novel, Euphoria, was released in June 2014. It has drawn significant acclaim so far, bei ...more
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“Who can explain why a few words in a particular tone can clear acres of sudden unfamiliarity? ...Would that person look up and grin, and find him grinning back, full of the sweet miraculous relief of having been perfectly received? ...He was saying, if it's not carrots, it's something else; he was saying, How futile life is, the slicing of carrots, the eating of meals; he was saying, How wonderful life is, to come home to the security of carrots in the kitchen; he was saying, Another day come to its devastating close. He was saying all this and I heard him because he was like me, entirely ambivalent about life. It was almost a question: Should I be full of joy or despair, Rosie? Joy, my face always replied to him, not because I felt sure that was the answer, but because I'd begun to want to make it his.” 2 likes
“So much of this trip had been spent gazing at spectacular sights, which always filled me, as this one did now, with agonizing frustration. Why couldn't I simply accept and enjoy beauty? What was it that stirred up this terrible discomfort? ...We agreed it was the impermanence, the inability to possess, the reminder of death.” 1 likes
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