I had the pleasure of reading a Rosy Thornton novel a couple years ago and I enjoyed it very much, so when she offered to send me her latest, I was happy to take it. Secretly I was hoping for another academic novel like Hearts and Minds, but even though it wasn’t that, The Tapestry of Love was a real pleasure to read. The storytelling is strong, the situation is interesting, and the characters are engaging.
The novel tells the story of Catherine Parkstone, a woman in her late 40s who moves to France to live in the Cevennes. She has bought a house and plans to set up a needlework business, creating drapes, cushions, and maybe even tapestries for the local farmers and villagers. She is nervous heading off on her own, and sad to leave her son and daughter behind, busy as they are with their careers and studies, but this is a dream of hers she is willing to take risks to fulfill.
In the opening chapters of the novel, she gets herself settled in the new house and tries to adjust to a new life — the quiet, the isolation, the tiny hamlets and villages, and, the first morning, a neighbor farmer delivering hay to her door for reasons she doesn’t understand. The pace is slow and enjoyable as we watch Catherine negotiate meeting the neighbors and coming to learn a little bit about the local culture. There are just a few residents on her mountainside, including the mysterious Patrick Castagnol who is native to the area but doesn’t quite seem to fit in at the same time.
Catherine slowly develops relationships with these people and begins to find her place there, meeting with business success as people begin to place orders for her creations and she sells her wares at the local market. The peace gets interrupted, though, when her sister visits and upsets the emotional and social balance Catherine had established. She has to figure out how she will respond to what feels like an intrusion.
One of the pleasures of the book lies in the quiet, thoughtful nature of Catherine’s character as she tries to find her way toward a completely new kind of life. The setting is another source of pleasure — the mountains are beautiful, and it’s enjoyable to read about Catherine’s walks through the woods and her drives up and down twisty mountain roads. And I enjoyed the book for a picture of a dying way of life; because of the establishment of a National Park, new businesses aren’t allowed in the area, and while there are a growing number of tourists, the local young people have been leaving, and the farmers are getting older and older. In a way, Catherine’s presence is a hopeful sign, since she brings new energy to the place, but she discovers before too long that her business is at risk because of the park rules. She waited too long to investigate the rules for setting up new businesses and now has to pay the price.
This was a satisfying read, and if you like thoughtful, well-written, quiet types of books, I can recommend it.