Moving to the mountains may be the idea for someone seeking lone time but it’s not necessarily the case that that time will remain.
Publisher: Headline Review (Hodder)
First Published: 2010
Date Reviewed: 22nd September 2010
I’d been wanting to read The Tapestry Of Love ever since I first saw the cover; the photo was beautiful and the historian in me was captivated by the word “tapestry”. So when I received an email from the author, offering it to me for review, I could only say yes.
After several years as a divorcee, Catherine decides to up sticks and move to an almost deserted area of France, buying a house complete with orchards and beehives. She comes to love the area and it’s people and makes use of her skills in sewing and tapestry to aid the homes of those around her. But a few events may later give her cause to rethink her life and work out what she really wants.
I generally have a really hard time getting into stories from the first page, and even though it happens a lot – that I’m disconnected for a few turns of the leaves – I’ve never got used to it and let it be. So I was happy when, upon opening Thornton’s book, the first sentence wasn’t just good, but very good.
Thornton begins her tale with “Never in her life had Catherine Parkstone imagined so many sheep”, which provides so much information straight away; we have the main character’s name, and a good sense of her location. We also have reason to read on. The story is split into three parts and Thornton uses this event of moving sheep again, in the second part, to illustrate the change in Catherine’s mind, how she’s adapting to her new lifestyle.
And it’s in writing that Thornton excels. She has chosen a relaxing story for which she can concentrate more on that often recounted point “don’t tell, show” and goes into meticulous detail about Catherine’s location so that it’s impossible not to be able to imagine it perfectly. The book is slow moving, the kind of slowness that enables you to feel you can really spend your time on it and take it all in. It demands your attention when describing but otherwise you’re very much permitted to pull up a chair to the table of Patrick Castagnol and nibble at the cheese provided with homemade wine. Because of the book’s setting and Catherine’s employment there is also a lot to learn for someone unknowable in arable farming (such as myself) and likewise much enjoyment for those who perhaps spend their own time working the land.
Not exactly surprising, considering the book’s title, there is a lot of information here about tapestry. Being more of a knitter than a sewer I must admit that for me sometimes the details became too much but for another they would be a delight.
There is a big difference between the scenes outside and the scenes taking place at one of Catherine’s neighbours’ houses. It is outside where the descriptions take president – the information about weather, the growing of the crops, the time to reflect by oneself. Inside it is all about dialogue, social interaction. This means that you are likely to prefer one lot of scenes to the other but because both are given equal time this is never a problem.
Something which took me a while to realise is why there were so many descriptions, because in places I did find the book easy to put down. I realised that it is where Catherine is on her own that she is reflecting on her surroundings and although that might be obvious it occurred to me that when I am alone I will often do the same, thinking the same things as I did the last time I was alone, looking out the window to judge the way the clouds are moving. Catherine’s thinking and Thornton’s descriptions serve to show how one has time to think about things like this when alone and even more so in a place where life is less busy. Looking at it from where I live I had to remember to change my mindset and remember how life is slower in the countryside.
And so when Catherine is invited to dinner the descriptions give way to dialogue. The host of secondary characters are great to read about, there is a similarity between them due to livelihood but each bring their own personality to the story. When Catherine’s family turn up on the pages there is that complete difference shown between rural life and city chaos and I can’t but wonder how much Thornton has brought her own experiences into the book because she writes it all so well.
Love, you say? Indeed, there is love in this book and it runs subtly throughout the story for the most part, but it’s discernible to the reader.
In writing The Tapestry Of Love, Thornton has presented the perfect story for a rural dweller and a challenge of sorts for a citizen of the city being that the latter must leave their faster-paced life at the cover of the book and take off their shoes before entering. It is a really rural book that will appeal to anyone seeking a getaway without the air-travel price tag, and a way of becoming completely absorbed in an idyll.
Beware if you’ve been considering escaping to the country. This book will give you ideas aplenty.
I received this book for review from the author.