House of Daughters is the story of three estranged half-sisters. Clementine, the oldest, lives in a vineyard in France with their curmudgeonly old father, Olivier, and has helped him tend the vines since she was a girl. Clementine hasn’t seen her younger sister, Mathilde, since she spent the summer with them years ago and cruelly broke Clementine’s heart by pursuing the man she knew Clementine herself was in love with. But when Olivier dies and leaves the vineyard to his daughters, Clementine must share her prized vineyard with her infuriating half-sister. Even worse, it seems that Olivier had another daughter that neither Clementine nor Mathilde were aware of: Sophie. After her mother’s death, Sophie was shuffled from foster home to foster home, after which she lived on the streets. The Peine vineyards are Sophie’s one chance to find a family and a place to belong.
The only problem is that these sisters resent each other. Though Clementine and Sophie begin to grow closer, Mathilde still holds her sisters at arm’s-length. She hides her insecurities under a shell of cruelty and malice, but she can’t cower forever. Eventually Clementine and Mathilde’s secrets are revealed as the three sisters work together to save the Peine vineyards.
House of Daughters is a repackaging of the popular UK book House of Peine, brought to shelves for the American market. U.S. readers will love the depiction of French vineyards and the details about making champagne. Lynch obviously did extensive research on the history of champagne and how it is made (as she details in the introduction), and it shows. In the book, she goes into exquisite details about champagne and all the processes of its making. For anyone interested in the process but not willing to read a dry nonfiction book, this novel is for you.
The story of the Peine sisters is also appealing. The bond between Clementine and Sophie is sweet and develops into a real sisterly connection. They look out for each other and, slowly, Clementine begins to trust that Sophie will not hurt her. The problem comes with Mathilde. She is so unpleasant that when her predictable turnaround finally comes (much too late in the book), it simply does not matter. The reader is never going to be able to like her despite how nice she acts or how damaged she was from her childhood. It would have been nice if her transformation could have come sooner; that way the character might actually have a chance with the reader. However, real life sometime gets in the way of a reader’s pleasure, and it is understandable that a person that damaged would actually act that extreme.
House of Daughters is a cute story that will appeal to anyone who likes chick lit/women’s fiction-type books, is interested in the champagne-making process, or enjoys books set in different countries (such as Under the Tuscan Sun).