Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Tapestry of Love - Rosy Thornton

A warm and uplifting story of how a woman falls in love with a place and its people: a landscape, a community and a fragile way of life. A rural idyll: that's what Catherine is seeking when she sells her house in England and moves to a tiny hamlet in the Cevennes mountains. With her divorce in the past and her children grown, she is free to make a new start, and her dream is to set up in business as a seamstress. But this is a harsh and lonely place when you're no longer just here on holiday. There is French bureaucracy to contend with, not to mention the mountain weather, and the reserve of her neighbours, including the intriguing Patrick Castagnol. And that's before the arrival of Catherine's sister, Bryony...

I had only read one Rosy Thornton book before this one but I enjoyed it so much that, when offered this one by the author, I just couldn't resist. And I am really glad I did so! I find that my reading tastes have changed somehow over the years. Now I seem to appreciate older, mature, characters better. People who have lived and found themselves at a crossroads in life and people who have decided to start over. Since I am always saying to my other half that we should move to the country and find a simpler way of life this story could not have been more appropriate.

Catherine Parkstone is a divorced Englishwoman with grown up children who has decided to pursue her dream of moving to a small French village - St. Julien in Cévennes – and start over. She cooks, plants some of her own food, meets her neighbours and decides to start a tapestry and upholstery business. I did like her a lot. She was cautious and reserved but after meeting her neighbour and seeing how... well... how neighbourly they are she opens up a bit and they develop an interesting relationship. There's a lot of caring and concern for one another as they are mostly older people seeing their village and way of life disappearing.

Among the people that Catherine meets there's Patrick Castagnol, a somewhat mysterious man with whom she enjoys talking. She is getting settled in her new life and developing a tapestry business when her sister Bryony decides to come for a visit. Bryony seemed the total opposite of Catherine and I have to confess I did dislike her a bit. She is a workaholic attorney and although she apparently comes to find some time for herself and enjoy the same things that make Catherine happy, she doesn't even try to get to know the area and its people preferring to spend all her time romancing Castagnol and it seemed clear that a certain rivalry exists between the two.

When Catherine is faced with her mother's death she goes back home and has to deal with all the emotions from that loss and also with the lives of her children, ex-husband and sister. She questions her decision to move to France to pursue an old dream and whether she should be closer to them. Life is not made of easy choices and I did like how the story dealt with family relationships. The story also includes a bit of romance that left me a bit worried for a while.

Although I do not know the Cévennes area, I loved Rosy Thornton's description of the land and its people. I really could imagine how everything looked and it sounded like an area worth exploring. It seemed to suffer from the desertification so common, nowadays, to many European regions. That is unfortunate and I wonder if one day we will look back and realise that the huge mistake that was to let the little villages die by not providing jobs for the younger generation. As it is, I loved reading about St Julien and imagine myself walking down those roads not to mention eating all the food mentioned.

For me this was a lovely read and it definitely left me with a taste to read more of the same. Should anyone have suggestions of books set in the country about new beginnings and getting to know a new culture feel free to send them my way!

One final word for the cover, isn't that just a beautiful cover?
Grade: 4.5/5

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