Book Review: The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton

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You’re 48, divorced, selling the family home and grabbing a new life before it’s too late...

So what’s the first thought that crosses your mind as you head for new horizons in the breathtaking Cévennes mountains of France?

Will I be able to get Radio 4...

Rosy Thornton’s endearing novel about a middle-aged woman’s French odyssey is the nearest thing to meeting a whole new set of friends... learning about their lives, their loves, their hopes and their fears.

With her gentle and understated prose, playful humour and charming and affectionate portrayal of our laid back neighbours, Thornton provides a delightful snapshot of the French way of life and the universal emotions that make us tick, whatever our nationality.

Catherine Parkstone has been divorced for eight years and her two children, Andrew and Lexie, are grown up and finding their way in the big, wide world.

She knew it was time to move on and childhood holidays in the Cévennes convinced her that this could be just the place to start afresh, harness her soft furnishing skills and build up her own business.

The only cloud on the horizon is the guilt at leaving behind her mother, a sad victim of dementia living out her final days in a nursing home in England.

‘You’ve only got one life, mum,’ said 27-year-old journalist Lexie so here she is in her isolated farmhouse with no broadband, no mobile phone signal and in the middle of an all too frequent power cut.

Being a fluent French speaker helps but Catherine has to tread carefully with her neighbours who are naturally suspicious of the Englishwoman who has moved into their small and tightly knit community.

When she is invited into their homes and finds local ‘delicacies’ like dead rabbits and walnuts in honey on her doorstep, Catherine knows she is getting there...

But there’s one neighbour she’s not too sure about ... the suave and handsome Patrick Castagnol whose teasing leaves her both amused and perplexed.

And just as Catherine is getting to rather like this enigmatic man, sister Bryony arrives for a brief stay and her City lawyer bravado appears to hold more attraction for Patrick than Catherine’s simple domestic charm...

The secret of Thornton’s success is her ability to tap into the concerns of real people and build up a story and a dialogue that is both credible and entertaining.

An intelligent and warm-hearted read...

(Headline Review, hardback, £19.99)