Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton — 352 pgs


Book CoverWhen Catherine leaves England to settle in the Cévennes mountains, she's hoping for a simple and rustic life. Surrounded by the dense woods and the idyllic mountains, her neighbors immediately adopt her into their community. From the older couple who share her land and help her with the maintenance of her property to the older widow who enlists Catherine to help her into town, Catherine is at once enveloped in France. But when she meets another neighbor, the handsome and mysterious Patrick, Catherine begins to question all she has known about attraction and love. As she settles in the beautiful French countryside, Catherine decides to become a self-employed business woman, weaving tapestries and working with fabrics on interior design. But there are some serious snafus when her sister Bryony comes to town for an extended getaway and is immediately enraptured by Patrick, and her interior design business hits a roadblock due to government restrictions. Just when Catherine thinks she's home free and that her feelings for Patrick have been quashed, the situation changes once again, leaving her more confused than ever. As the months roll by, Catherine becomes deeply involved in all aspects of rural life, from the ties to the locals, to her business, to the very perplexing feelings for Patrick that she can't seem to jettison, and discovers that life in this blissful and remote area is not only what her soul craves, but what her heart desires. Like the tapestries Catherine weaves, Thornton takes all the exquisite colors of the French countryside and Catherine's life, and creates a stunning representation of one woman's existence filled with the subtle dramas and grace that we all hope to capture in our own lives.

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!


This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.

26 comments:

Jenny said...

This doesn't sound like one I would have typically picked up, but it does sound like a relaxing, peaceful book. And I also like female characters that are strong and independent. I'll have to keep this one on the back burner for when I need a book like this!

TheBookGirl said...

Quite a change of pace from your last reviewed book. Isn't it great when you pick up a book at just the right time. Hope things have become less stressful for you :)

Gwendolyn B. said...

This is coming up quick in my reading pile. So glad to know you liked it!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I sort of hated Patrick for taking up with Briony.

Serena said...

I agree this is a quiet read, but I loved it as well. I'm so glad I took the chance on reading it. I normally don't read these romantic-type novels because sometimes they are overly dramatic.

Zibilee said...

Rhapsodyinbooks,

I know exactly what you mean, I totally had a hard time with the Patrick and Bryony angle and wished that it wouldn't have happened. I give Catherine a lot of credit for sticking to him, because I wouldn't have. It wasn't until the very end that I forgave him, and even then, I still was angry with him!

Steph said...

I have been in the mood for quieter novels recently, and nothing on my shelves seems just right. I've been hearing good things about this one, so it definitely is on my radar. It sounds like it's filled with really great/believable characters, so I will have to keep it in mind!

melanie said...

I liked this one too :). I definitely didn't like the Bryony angle - I thought it was odd.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I have to admit, I tried twice to read another of Thornton's books, Crossed Wires, and just couldn't get any traction, so I was unsure about this one. I do have those fantasies, though, of moving to the country and making goat cheese, or whatever. I'd probably go nuts in reality, but I love to nurture the thought. I will take your advice to heart though, and consider this one when I need something gentle.

Zibilee said...

Sandy,
I can totally picture you making goat cheese out in the country! I always get this extreme wanderlust whenever I read books like this, and I have conversations with my husband about selling the house and moving away. He humors me, but I know he will never go along with it!

Amy said...

I loved this book, too and found it a great change from so many of the other books I'm reading that have a lot of activity in comparison. I didn't want it to end. I adored Catherine and her personality and thought her quite courageous. How she was so patient with Bryony is beyond me!

Your review is quite good, I enjoyed it very much!

Suko said...

Zibilee, this does sound like the perfect book to help with the sometimes unrelenting stressfulness of life. I enjoy quiet, contemplative reading. Lovely review.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I really enjoyed this one as well - just the right sense of quiet and peace in the midst of all the hectic day-to-day challenges. I'm looking forward to more of Thornton's work.

nomadreader (Carrie) said...

This book sounds a lot like the novels of Katie Fforde, one of my favorite "comfort" reads. I'll have to look for it!

bermudaonion said...

I'm a city girl too, but I always find stories set in the country appealing. They make me long for a simpler life and then I think about all the work that involves and I snap out of it. I do love a quiet book like this at times.

Marie said...

Sounds adorable. Probably not my thing but you make it sound wonderful.

Jenners said...

Sometimes we all need a book like this ... and I'm glad it was helpful in getting you through a tough time.

Vasilly said...

This sounds like an amazing read! I've read many great things about Thornton's writing. Glad to hear that this one doesn't disappoint!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

What a nice review. I am not sure I'll get to read it, but loved hearing your thoughts.

Swapna said...

Wow, what a review! I have this one as well, you definitely have made me want to read it.

Jenny said...

This book was strange to me because of how much the rustic stuff would never, ever, ever be my life. She didn't have reliable internet! I would perish! But I enjoyed it a lot though.

Peaceful Reader said...

This sounds like a perfect winter read...by the fire. Thanks for such a wonderful review. I'll add it to my list now.

Nymeth said...

This sounds lovely, and I think I'd particularly appreciate the gardening/rural bits as well. It would be a way of experiencing something I can't have :P

Erin said...

I read about this book first on The Zen Leaf, I think, but each successive review has been slowly convincing me it's a book I might like. At first glance, it's not really my style, but the responses of so many bloggers has swayed me! I'll keep it in mind for when I need a quiet, cozy book amidst stressful happenings. Lovely review!

Anna said...

I just received this book the other day, and it sounds wonderful. I need a quiet read and a retreat from the city right now!

Kenneth Wishnia said...

Thanks for the kind words about THE FIFTH SERVANT. I appreciate your insights.

If anybody's got a book group out there that wants to read and discuss it, I'd be happy to talk to them in person (in the NY tri-state area) or (long distance) via speakerphone.

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