The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton
2010 Headline Publishing Group
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)
A rural idyll: that’s what Catherine is seeking when she sells her house in England and moves to a tiny hamlet in the Cevennes mountains. With her divorce in the past and her children grown, she is free to make a new start, and to set up in business as a seamstress. But this is a harsh and lonely place when you’re no longer here on holiday. There is French bureaucracy to contend with, not to mention the mountain weather, and the reserve of her neighbours, including the intriguing Patrick Castagnol. And that’s before the arrival of Catherine’s sister, Bryony…
It’s been over a year since I first heard about The Tapestry of Love. Iliana, Jenclaire, Nancy and Nan all wrote glowing reviews, piquing my interest in this British novel. Nobody likened it to Rosamunde Pilcher and yet that’s what I had in mind when I finally got around to picking it up. I’d begun the book in mid-February and got stuck about halfway in, not feeling the pull to sit and read for hours on end. I was easily distracted by my upcoming trip to Hawaii, but hating to give up on the book, decided to save it for the trip, hoping to regain some sense of enthusiasm while sitting in an airplane for several hours. Unfortunately, it was a bit too slow and quiet for the long flights. I finally set it aside somewhere over California and moved on to a mystery that grabbed my attention from the opening pages. It was not until I was home (and over my jet lag!) that I returned to Thornton’s story and regained enough interest to complete the book.
I enjoyed parts of the story, but overall I never felt an emotional connection to any of the characters or setting. The pacing, while even, felt too languid and less than compelling. If you’re looking for a plot-driven narrative, this is not the book for you.
I could relate to Catherine’s sleepless nights, as I too have found I am sleeping less and less:
On the hottest nights she gave up the uneven fight. Extracting herself from the clinging sheet, she would go downstairs and read or work—or simply stand at the window and stare up at the canopy of stars, her mind a leaping blank, or across and down into the teeming blackness of the gully. Catherine felt strangely clear-headed on these hot, solitary nights. She found she no longer needed the sleep she had when the children were babies, when she’d have bartered her future for one undisturbed early night. As she grew older, would she need it less and less? With the elderly it seemed to go either way—some slept all the time while others appeared to give it up altogether. If the insomnia of old age was to be like this, it seemed no terrible sentence.
I also appreciated the author’s sentiments on the love for one’s mother: (SPOILER)
How do you remember a mother? Someone who has always been there, from time before memory: a given, a constant presence, once more real than self. How can you think about her the way you would another person? When Catherine closed her eyes, no images came at all but only a warm cocooning scent, and the comfort of arms she would never feel again. And yet when she grasped for it, the scent evaded her, evaporating in the stone and oak and herbs of the kitchen. What was her mother’s smell? She tried to reconstruct it—well-washed wool and soap and that jasmine perfume she wore—but it was gone.
And on grief:
Like a friend, he knew the right questions to ask.
“What made her laugh?” he said…
See what some of my blogmates have to say about this novel:
Just like the other novels by Rosy Thornton that I’ve read what stands out the most for me is that the people feel real. Relationships can be messy but here the characters grow and move on. (Iliana, of Bookgirl’s Nightstand)
I enjoyed the slow pace of the novel as Catherine adjusts to the demands of a new culture and setting. The descriptions are lovely, and I could easily imagine the beauties and difficulties of her new way of life. (Jenclair, of A Garden Carried in the Pocket)
Every place Catherine goes becomes familiar to the reader. Her walks in the woods, the village, the house she visits. I don't know when I've read a book in which I felt so at home because I could really 'see' where I was. Everyone in this tiny place is kind to her, from the postman to the man who mowed her fields, to the shopkeeper. We get to know them, as we also meet the other people in Catherine's life: her children, her sister, her mother who lives in a nursing home, and even her ex-husband. These people weave in and out of her life, just as she weaves her tapestries from which she hopes to make her living in this new place.
I could go on and on praising this truly wonderful book. It gave me one of the most enjoyable reading times I've ever had. I loved it. (Nan, of Letters from a Hill Farm)
A slow, quiet, beautifully-written book with a touch of romance, some very poignant moments (I cried when she went to talk to her bees, if that means anything to others who've read The Tapestry of Love), plenty of humorous and touchingly realistic moments with Catherine's extended family and a perfectly wrapped-up, satisfying ending. (Nancy, of Bookfoolery and Babble)
Be sure to visit these blogs for their complete reviews, especially Nan’s wonderful “book report,” which includes some lovely photographs of the region.
Final Thoughts: Overall, it was not what I expected, but so much of that could have been a result of bad timing. I’m willing to give one of her other books a try someday.