The Tapestry of Love Paperback – Apr 12 2011
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About the Author
Rosy Thornton teaches at Cambridge University. She lives in a village nearby with her partner and their two daughters.
Top Customer Reviews
The details about the area, the terrain and neighbours was initially fascinating, but my interest soon waned as it continued throughout much of the first half of the novel. As a positive, I could picture the setting vividly, but unfortunately I couldn't find much plot to hold onto until the later half. Even early in the novel when Catherine's sister visits and throws a glitch in her ideal rural fantasy, I found Catherine's reaction passive where I'd hoped she'd take action. Her struggles against the French bureaucracy was a major theme of the book according to it's synopsis, but it didn't actually begin until well past half way through the novel, and even though it was interesting, overall, it wasn't much of a glitch of conflict.
There were a few moments that snuck up on me emotionally that I wasn't expecting, which I enjoyed. I also liked the subplot of her struggles with her mother's Alzheimer's and that her relationship with her ex-husband was amicable, finding her thoughts on both realistic and conflicting. However, because they were both physically distant we only saw these relationships through her thoughts, which I found didn't give me much to grab onto.
While Thornton definitely has a flair for words, I wished The Tapestry of Love was less wordy with the description and had a bit more conflict and plot to sink my teeth into.
Catherine finds the Cévennes beautiful, but it is also harsh and lonely terrain and it is difficult for an outsider to find acceptance - even a fluent French speaker. And there are other battles as well: both with the French bureaucracy and the mountain weather. Despite the initial reserve of her new neighbours, over time Catherine becomes part of the daily life in the community of Le Grelaudiere. She also becomes fascinated by the enigmatic Patrick Castagnol, her nearest neighbour. While Catherine is keen to build her new life, she also feels the pull of her former life: her aging mother is in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer's disease and she misses her children Lexie and Tom, and her sister Bryony.
This is a delightful and enjoyable novel about family, friendship, love and new beginnings. It is also about the fragile beauty of a place and way of life. I enjoyed the way that Ms Thornton portrayed the relationships in this novel, and I loved her descriptions of the landscape in the Cévennes. The seasons of the mountains provided their own chronology for various events in the lives of the characters and Catherine's tapestries also formed a partial metaphor for her new life: bringing together fabric, colour and idea to create something new, or to repair something old.
Note: I was offered, and accepted, a copy of this novel for review purposes.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Of course there are some rough patches on this cobblestone road, for life (and good novels) are never complete without them. (Like when Catherine's younger sister Bryony shows up for a visit and steps squarely in the midst of the budding relationship between Catherine and Patrick!) But Catherine navigates them with grace and aplomb, and comes out wiser and stronger on the other side.
The thing I loved about this novel is the way Thornton takes an everyday sort of life and expands it into a wonderful, meaningful story. After all, Catherine isn't all that different from me, really - she has grown children she misses, an ailing mum she worries about, an avocation turning into a career. Yet in Thornton's hands, Catherine's story becomes compelling and thought provoking. I think it's Thornton's intimate writing style, the perfect amount of attention to the small detail, and her deft characterizations that make her novels such a joy to read.
Tapestry of Love weaves a charming portrait of a woman's life, of a place she choose to live and comes to love, and of the relationships which make her days meaningful.
She starts a needlework and upholstery business, prepares a garden, and contemplates raising some pigs on the small piece of real estate she now owns in France. The neighbors are skeptical at first, but soon warm up to her and become clients as well as friends. There are quiet mornings, the ability to walk everywhere, and figure out exactly who she is going to become.
There are family issues but there always are and for some reason they always involve sisters. Catherine and her sister may be adults but there is the underlying competition even for the one man Catherine had a feelings toward. Patrick is secretive and shares the love of a good bottle of wine over conversation but Catherine is not going to fight for him, or will she? He will have to decide which sister he wants and hope that she will also want him back.
This book must be read for its glorious writing, endearing characters, and beautiful setting. Catherine is a woman who I admire because she is on her own and creates a life she wants to live.
Recommend? Absolutely...take your time, make a cup of tea and immerse yourself in this story!
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.
Sometimes I crave a good quiet read that renews my spirit and gives me things to contemplate. I had been reading many reviews of this book on the blogosphere and began to think it would be a great reading experience. When Rosy Thornton contacted me and asked me if I'd like a chance to review it, I snapped to attention and responded in the affirmative right away. The book didn't disappoint, and it was just the type of read that I could relax into like a hot bath during a time in my life that was rather stressful and worrying. As life was doing its best to turn my heart into a pretzel, I knew that I could have respite within these pages and I grew to love the time I spent with this story.
Catherine was a character whom I loved from the instant I began reading about her. She was so strong-willed, and no matter what disappointments were hanging over her head, she never gave in to self-pity and recrimination. Some of the things that she went through required a strong heart and a tough spirit, and Catherine had that in spades. When she meets Patrick for the first time, theirs is an electric attraction, and there's noting unrequited about her feelings for him. As he gently coaxes her into his life, Catherine begins to bloom like a rose under his ministrations. There was a lot of passion between these two people, but Thornton shares these revelations with a subdued and graceful hand, and the effect is one of total realism. Catherine is a woman in her middle age but her heart is no less moved or passionate than that of a younger woman at Patrick's tender behavior. When her sister Bryony comes into the picture and basically usurps Patrick, the tension Catherine experiences forces her to reexamine her feelings, not only for her sister, but for the man who has so enraptured her. She doesn't fret and whine about it though, and instead employs a great deal of patience and understanding, preferring to put Patrick and Bryony in the background and moving the other parts of her life into the foreground.
Another thing that was great about this book was its rustic appeal. I'm sort of a city girl, but I had not a bit of trouble appreciating the sections in which Catherine tends to her garden, or her forays into French cooking. I liked the quiet feel of the writing in these sections and it was constantly edifying to my soul to read about the wild mushrooms found in the woods and the elusive pack of wild boars that Catherine observes. There was something so charming and genteel about the life she was living out in the French countryside, and many times while reading I would drift off into daydreams about escaping the city to find solace in the woods and mountains. There was such a feeling of cohesion and peace within Catherine's life out there, and I found that a lot of these sections gave the book such charm. Reading about Catherine's day-to-day life in the Cévennes mountains made me at once feel relaxed and put me in a very peaceful frame of mind, which is something that I desperately needed.
The focus on the tapestries and Catherine's various other handicrafts was also something to be admired. I didn't know very much about this form of artistry before reading this book, but Thornton had a way of explaining everything so clearly that even a layperson could get caught up in it. Her descriptions of the work Catherine did and the dying and collecting of thread struck me as very knowledgeable, and I wondered many times if Thornton herself engaged in tapestry making, such was the level of expertise that she created in her story. I also liked that Catherine's artwork was so appreciated and sought after by the locals because so often crafts and art are things that are pursued and appreciated alone. The aspect of a single woman living in France and being such an expert needlewoman somehow appealed to some of my softer and more creative emotions. Often times, when one doesn't participate in a craft like this, reading about it can be alienating or just plain boring, which is something that Thornton very successfully escapes in her work.
I was so enthralled with this book and I think I read it at a perfect time in my life. The quietness and rustic qualities really spoke to me in a way that had a healing effect on me during a rough patch I was having, and I would be interested in re-reading this book at another time to examine other aspects of the story that Thornton so expertly crafted. It's a love story, yes, but also, and I think more importantly, a story about a woman who is strong, independent and wise, and who takes a chance on a life that not many of us will ever experience. I think this book would appeal to a lot of readers and it would be a great read to curl up with on a rainy afternoon. A great and gentle read. Recommended!