(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Antoine Montès arrives in a small town in the south of France to claim the vineyard bequeathed to him by a father he has never known. Thirty-five years earlier, his mother left his father after learning of his infidelity. She did not tell her husband that she was pregnant, declined to divorce him or accept money from him, and never allowed him to see his son. Montès is expected to sell his father’s property, for which he is offered a large sum of money, but shocks the town by announcing that he intends to stay.

When Montès attempts to fire the bailiff who oversees the vineyards, the man, whose daughter was his employer’s mistress, refuses to leave and sues Montès. Living in a shabby hotel nearby, Montès becomes attached to Rose, a waitress, and her two young daughters. Because the town thinks that he is going to be rich, he also attracts the attention of a well-to-do cousin and his two daughters, Hélène, an aloof, pregnant wife, and Cécile, a rebellious tomboy.

Rose’s husband, Jep, a gypsy, has stolen some jewelry but does not know how to get rid of it. Because Rose wants Montès’ help, Jep assaults the outsider for interfering in his life. Nevertheless, Montès takes the jewels and hides them in his hotel room. Maurice, a young fertilizer salesman who lives in the hotel, attempts unsuccessfully to blackmail Montès about Rose and the stolen jewels. Finding a note from Cécile, who is strangely drawn to the slovenly Montès,...

(The entire section is 423 words.)