12 Feb 2013

The Tapestry of Love (by Rosy Thornton)

It's a few years since I came across Rosy Thornton; having enjoyed two of her books, I put a third on my wishlist and was delighted to receive it for Christmas.

The main character in 'The tapestry of love' is Catherine Parkstone, who is driving through hordes of sheep as this book opens. She’s desperate for some coffee, but decides that a bar of Dairy Milk will have to suffice. She glances at her watch before resigning herself to waiting... the picture is painted, vividly, of a typical British businesswoman entering a completely different culture.

We soon learn that Catherine has bought an old farmhouse in the Cevennes mountains in France. She has just emerged from a divorce, and her two young adult children are established at university and in a job. Her mother is in a pleasant nursing home, suffering with advanced Alzheimer’s Disease, and barely recognises her daughter.. so Catherine is, at last, following her dreams and moving into France, where she hopes to establish a business making curtains, furniture covers and tapestries for the locals.

The first part of the book takes us through the first months, where Catherine gets to know her neighbours, discovers what will and won’t grow, becomes more confident in her language skills, and gradually begins to feel as if she’s settling in. She finds herself quite attracted to the somewhat mysterious Patrick, one of the few of her neighbours with excellent English... then her sister Bryony arrives for a holiday, and embarks on what seems to be an affair with Patrick.

There’s not really a whole lot more plot to this gentle and enjoyable novel. Catherine is on a journey to establish a new life as an expat; having done that as a family ourselves, I could relate to her quite strongly in her struggles with bureaucracy, her frustrations about lack of time sense, and her gradual explorations beyond her own boundaries.

There are also questions of priorities - of how she relates to her children, her sister, her mother. As she goes through the different classical stages of culture adjustment ,and comes up against some apparent obstacles to her business, she has to ask herself whether or not it’s worthwhile, or whether she should cut her losses and return to the UK.

I don’t know why this book was so enjoyable; there’s more description than I am usually comfortable with, more people than I could easily remember, more detail about farm life than I find interesting. And yet, seeing everything through Catherine’s eyes (albeit in the third person) I could almost imagine her home and her environment ,and feel some of her confusion and pain when difficulties arose or people behaved out of character.

The writing is excellent, a cut above the majority of modern books, and somehow the pace is exactly right. It would not appeal to anyone who likes fast action - although there are one or two quite tense scenes - and there’s no fantasy, no crime; even the romance element is very low-key. Yet somehow it was a delightful book, and one that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys women’s fiction.

Available on Kindle as well as in paperback.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 12th February 2013

1 comment:

Leigh Forbes said...

Your review is spot on!