The book begins with Catherine Parkstone arriving in France to start a new life. She's leaving behind two adult children in their twenties, a sister who's a lawyer and a mother with Alzheimers who lives in a home. Catherine is divorced, her husband having left her for a younger woman, although the couple are on reasonably good terms. Obviously this is a brand new start for Catherine whose plan is to settle into a newly bought house in a small (very) village in the Cévennes, a mountainous region of southern France. In order to make ends meet she plans to be a needlewoman, taking on soft furnishing jobs and taking commissions for her tapestries.
And that's it really. I don't want to give too many spoilers away but basically the story revolves around how she settles in and gets to know her neighbours. I loved this aspect of the book. I haven't been to the Cévennes, my sister-in-law lived first of all on the edge of the Dorgogne and then moved further north close to the Vendée. Her first house was in the middle of nowhere, but she did have farming neighbours just like the couple in this book. Everything was so familiar, their way of life, the markets, the giving of little gifts. It was startlingly accurate. When she moved to a small village she woke one morning to find another local farmer had been around and cut her grass with his machine without being asked, just as Catherine's neighbour did for her.
I absolutely adored the descriptions of the local area, the mountains, woods and valleys in particular. The author takes the time to give the reader a real feel for the area and by the sound of it it's absolutely stunning. I pinched this photo from the national park website:
Wow. It's every bit as beautiful as the book implies although I think the heat in the summer would give me personally real problems.
Other things I enoyed - how the author focusses on Catherine's needlework. I don't do much these days but I used to and it was wonderful to hear details of her work and how she went about each project, the threads and materials she used and the use to which each project was put. I found myself wanting photos!
So, all that said, what was I not too keen on? Answer, the romantic stuff.
A bit spoilery...
She gets involved with Patrick, a neighbour who is clearly interested in her too. And then he does something which I found myself very saddened by as by this time I really liked him. I couldn't forgive him for it, even at the end when he said why. In fact... his reasons only made it worse for me and if this were real life I would be worried for her. So did this ruin the book for me? No, certainly not. I like a book that makes me think and this made me ponder on the kind of behaviour some women accept from men and how, unless women stop doing this, the behaviour of - I should say - a *minority* of men, will never get any better. But that's just me... I haven't seen where anyone else was bothered by this and actually it makes the book a lot less predictable that it might otherwise have been. Plus, having strong feelings about certain aspects of a story is *never* a bad thing; in point of fact, it's a good author who can provoke reactions like this in my experience.
Anyway, my thanks to Rosy for allowing me to read her book for free. It's a terrific read... atmospheric with one of the best senses of place I've ever come across. Take it from me, this is the *real* France here, warts and all! I think I may even be over my aversion to books set in that country, though sadly I still have no wish to go back and visit.
I'll be quite happy to pass this one on to anyone else who would like to read and review it. Either e.mail me or leave a comment - I'll post anywhere in the world.
ETA: Book taken - winging its way to Texas as we speak.