The Last Estate by Conor Bowman is a rare miniature treat. The book, little over 160 pages, contains multitudes. It focuses on the story of Christian Aragon, the last surviving son of a Provençal vintner. He is nearly seventeen in 1920 and the shadow of his older brother Eugene, killed in the Great War, looms large. The hot summer has Christian conflicted by the opposing forces of lust and virtue, the former represented by the young geography teacher Miss Playben and the latter by the cantankerous Jesuit priest, Father Leterrier. Fr. Leterrier tortures his students with interminable lectures about Holy Purity while Christian yearns to escape the confines of his abusive father and inheriting the winery, which he sees as a curse. Christian’s battles with his hormonal instincts and his personal ethics leads to a crime.
The short novel accurately depicts small town life in the twilight years of France’s Third Republic (1870 – 1940). Since Conor Bowman is an Irish lawyer living in France, this creates an additional reality. Every action and legal maneuver will have lifelong consequences for Christian. Besides the courtroom drama, the novel has scenes of comedy, drama, and the erotic. It is a historical epic despite the low page count, sensual erotica, and a bildungsroman. This reviewer highly recommends The Last Estate. It can be read in one sitting and has a literary pedigree that has it stand above the usual beach read. Initially skeptical, this reviewer looks forward to reading more by Conor Bowman.
On a more material note, the Permanent Press, a small firm based in Sag Harbor, New York, puts out quality product. The binding is tight, the print is sharp and bright, and the cover has a quality design. Given the quality of both the story and the presentation, this reviewer would look forward to reading other titles by the Permanent Press. One is heartened to see a smaller publisher put out quality product for well-written entertaining stories.