I ran across my first reference to THE TAPESTRY OF LOVE over on The Zen Leaf and immediately wanted to read it after coming across Amanda's comment:
It was warm, comforting, and homey, and the prose was beautiful without ever jarring me.
That described exactly the kind of book I was in the mood for at the time. By a new-to-me UK author. And set in the French countryside? I wanted it. I wanted it now. Unfortunately, it somehow slipped through the cracks and I didn't end up ordering a copy immediately. But it wasn't long before I received Rosy Thornton's previous novel, Crossed Wires, as a gift and figured I may as well start there. I immediately liked Ms. Thornton's writing style and the so-very-real way her characters went about living their lives. So it was with great pleasure I opened up a package in the mail a little while later to find my very own copy of THE TAPESTRY OF LOVE. Falling into this story was as easy as pie.
Catherine Parkstone has just made one of the biggest decisions of her life. At the age of 48, she's been divorced for a while now and is fairly certain she's ready to move on with her life. In this case, moving on entails picking up her tomato plants and her threads and using almost all of her modest savings to purchase a cottage in an infinitesimally small village in France's Cevennes mountains. Yes, it shocks her kids. And her ex-husband. And basically anyone who ever knew her. But to Catherine it just feels right. And she doesn't regret it for a moment. Though her French isn't exactly up to par and sometimes the solitude can creep in unawares, it is with a lightening of the heart and a surge of hope that she takes to her new home and its curious denizens. Hanging out her shingle as a professional seamstress, Catherine sets about getting to know the locals and her easy way with people and quiet independence wins her a place in their hearts, though her nearby neighbor Patrick Castagnol is a bit of an enigma. Even if he does brew his own beer and cook her dinners like a master chef. Then one day, out of the blue, Catherine's sister Bryony arrives in need of a holiday, and the fragile balance Catherine has achieved threatens to crumble under the weight of her sister's forceful personality.
Okay. Favorite thing about this book, hands down? Catherine is so unapologetically herself and the rest of the characters are so exquisitely fraught with shades of grey. No villains. No angels. Just life in all its messy glory. And the beautiful, beautiful French countryside, French food, and Catherine's careful hands and rainbow of threads binding it all together. It sounds strange, but I am often so very gratified to be neatly foiled in my attempts to hate certain characters. You see, Catherine is a very likable character. And a couple of other characters (who should seriously know better, in my opinion) get in the way of her happiness. And such things can try my patience with them. But Rosy Thornton did an excellent job of presenting these actions in the context of their complicated history together, their individual fears, wants, and needs. And I could see it all laid out. The way it inevitably came together in just the way it did, like Catherine's tapestry of the saint in his boat, sailing for the shore. It was lovely in its imperfection. And I was so very happy with the way it ended. This is a quiet book and, like Patrick (and Catherine, for that matter), it is not given to effusion. But also like those two characters, it is wonderfully mature, full of hidden depths and shades of beauty. THE TAPESTRY OF LOVE is a book I could easily hand anyone, knowing they will likely fall for its simple, eloquent charms just as I did. Recommended for fans of Linda Gillard's Emotional Geology.