I spent a very happy afternoon last week reading this book which the author very kindly sent to me and since then I have been thinking about it and mulling over in my mind what I would write when it came to posting about The Tapestry of Love. The word that kept popping up all the time was 'quiet'. It is a quiet book, a book that left me feeling very calm and happy and satisfied.
Catherine is divorced, it is in the past and she has come to terms with it, so no heroine who is bitter and resentful and full of angst; she has two children with whom she is on excellent terms and her life is good, but she wants to make a new start, to try something different and she is now free to do so. Her house in England is sold and she moves to a tiny hamlet in the Cevennes mountains in France and decides to set up a business using her skills as a seamstress.
So she moves in and we, the readers, are taken along with Catherine on her daily life, her adjustments to the silence and isolation and her gradual growing acquantanceship with her neighbours and the little town in the valley and the small beginnings of her business. Her two immediate neighbours, at least those closest to her, are the Bouschets, an elderly couple who are at first formal and correct with this newcomer but as the book progresses over a year, become friends and partners.
I would like to assure any prospective readers of this book that we are not in the milieu of A Year in Provence in Cevennes. No madly overdrawn caricatured French peasants who seem to spend all their time imbibing wine and consuming massive superbly cooked meals (and yes I am sure I am exaggerating but that is how I found the books of Peter Mayle), just real people who, like Catherine, we get to know slowly and gently and with growing warmth.
We meet Patrick Castagnol "She put him at her own age or a little older; his hair was streaked more to grey than black, but his arms below the rolled up shirt sleeves were lean and closely muscled.....his hands caught her attention; their backs had the weathered tan and toughened knuckles of a life out of doors but his nails were trimmed and polished. What montagnard had manicured nails - even a Frenchman?"
When Catherine's son Tom meets Patrick and pronounces him 'a bit too smooth' we are on the alert that perhaps this neighbour is not all he seems and we, or at least I did, begin to worry and wonder what secret he is hiding. There is an attraction between them but it is kept subtle and understated and as the spring and summer pass the relationship gently grows and all seems set fair. But then Bryony, Catherine's sister, a high flier in the City, comes out to stay and immediately decides that Patrick is what she wants....
OK so no more plot give aways from now on as I want you to read this book for yourself though it is not as easy or as plain sailing as I think I have made it sound. Catherine has bureaucratic problems in setting up her business and at one stage all seems in peril, but I just want to concentrate on Rosy Thornton's writing which I found easy to read, elegant and beautifully flowing and also her sense of understanding.
When you read a book such as this you want to immediately sling a bag into the back of a car and take off but of course wherever you go your inner anxieties and problems go with you. Catherine has an elderly mother in a home in England and she feels guilty at not being close by and visiting more often, despite the fact that she has dementia and does not recognise her family any more, and is grief stricken when she hears of her mother's death and has to fly back to the funeral and to sort out all the aftermath of her mother's life. It goes without saying that I found this part of the book very moving and I did have a little bit of a weep as it reflected so perfectly my own feelings when my own mother died earlier this year. The necessary clearing up that has to be done, the sorting through of possessions and the knowledge that you will never see this person again, but at the same time the coming closer to family at a time like this, the shared grief and time to talk of things past and mend fences for the future. Beautifully done.
I liked Catherine very much. I found her a person with whom I felt a kinship as she determines to make something of her life, to be happy and not to waste her time and though she has insecurities, as we all do, she overcomes them and gradually carves out a niche for herself in her French home, is accepted into the community and forges friendships.
"I'm sorry, so sorry" How uselessly inadequate, how derisorily crassly inadequate "Madame if there is anything I can do"
"Marie-Josephe. My name. Please if you would it's Marie-Josephe"
A tightness gripped Catherine's throat, making it difficult to speak.
As I said, a quiet book.
I loved it.