Divorced and with her children grown and out of the house, 48-year-old Catherine Parkstone leaves England and settles into a mountain home in Southern France, where she plans to set up a business in tapestry.
I know that doesn’t seem like much of a summary, but I don’t want to say more and give anything away. I honestly hardly know how to write about it. I suppose I should start by saying that it was absolutely the book I needed right now while I’m under so much stress. It was warm, comforting, and homey, and the prose was beautiful without ever jarring me. I needed something comfortable and soft, and this book gave me that.
I love Rosy Thornton’s writing. I adored it in Crossed Wires, which was one of my favorite books from last year and which I loved even more on reread this year, and I knew it would be the same in her other books. When she wrote to offer me a copy of this book for review, I accepted immediately. I found everything I expected inside it: beautiful language, a complete immersion into the setting, and characters so real they feel like people, not fiction.
Setting. If you’ve been around my blog for any amount of time, you know that setting and landscape description is really difficult for me. Long passages of landscape cause me to zone out, and I don’t like huge amounts of any sort of description. With Thornton’s writing, it’s different. She knows exactly how much detail to put in, without overloading the reader or trying to describe every single thing. She paints a picture – a touch of color here, another touch there – and lets your mind fill in the rest. Her descriptions never got tedious, boring, or tiring, and I could really see and feel the world of Cévennes and St. Julien. It’s been 11 years since I lived in France and it was beautiful to revisit.
Then there were the characters. The characters make this story, more so because the plot is absolutely unremarkable. I don’t say unremarkable to mean boring or plain – I mean that there is no sweeping glorious story with stressful climax and resolution, like there is in many books. The things that happen to the characters here are things that happen in real life. People die when they get old or severely ill. People fresh out of college struggle with their career choices. People fall in love or out of love. Relationships get started and/or break up. People travel. They struggle with their taxes. They trade services with their neighbors.
On top of all that, Catherine Parkstone is adjusting to life in France. She has to adjust to a new language, culture, climate system, and cuisine. The book takes place over a year, and she slowly goes from her awkward first steps to a confidence that only comes with time. She grows and learns. Some of the first scenes are revisited in the last, and the differences between them sharply define this contrast. It was wonderful.
And then there was the primary romance of this book. Just like with Crossed Wires, it was a slow and understated romance, built on a lot of time and friendship. There’s caution between people who are older, who have been married and divorced in the past, who have had lives before this time and are not as incautious as they might have been at 20 years old. But there is also still passion and feeling and love. There is hurt and betrayal and misunderstanding as well. The Tapestry of Love explores all of that. And I have to say when Patrick calls Catherine “Cat-rine. Chérie” I completely melted away. Perhaps it was knowing how it sounds in French, but the words were so lyrically romantic that they really touched me.
Last little thing I want to talk about, and then I’ll end this – I loved the way the French was handled in this book. It’s been years since I could speak French well enough to get by, but I love being able to read little bits. I love that there was enough in here to touch on the language and idioms, but that there was never any haggle over direct translations that you see in some books. The French flowed into the text, just another element woven into the tapestry that makes up this book (a silly statement, perhaps, but still true). I’m not sure I can say I liked this one more than Crossed Wires, which had a certain personal appeal based on my own history with my husband, but I did completely fall in love with it by the end and I imagine it’s one I’ll revisit sometime in the future.