“A rural idyll: that’s what Catherine is seeking when she sells her house in England and moves to a tiny hamlet in the Cévennes mountains. With her divorce in the past and her children grown, she is free to make a new start, and her dream is to set up in business as a seamstress. But this is a harsh and lonely place when you’re no longer just here on holiday. There is French bureaucracy to contend with, not to mention the mountain weather, and the reserve of her neighbors, including the intriguing Patrick Castagnol. And that’s before the arrival of Catherine’s sister, Bryony.”
Thoughts: Some stories start out strong, capturing a reader’s attention from the first few pages, while others build slowly, taking their time to weave a story through detailed descriptions and careful character development. As one could guess from its title, The Tapestry of Love is very much one of the latter types of stories. Rosy Thornton’s deliberate layering of setting and character create a languid story that is as French in its meandering as it is in its set location. Do not let this description fool you however; The Tapestry of Love is a powerful story of reawakening and a coming-of-age story for the over-forty crowd.
Catherine is a bit of a conundrum. She arrives in France completely affected by the eight years since her divorce, but the reader does not get any insight into these experiences. Instead, one gets the chance to understand Catherine and her motivations slowly, through hints and glimpses into the past. This makes Catherine a difficult character to understand at first because very few people can relate to her need to move to a foreign country and surround herself with the silence of the countryside, let alone her tapestry business. However, as the reader gathers a more complete picture of her, the story, and the reader’s empathy for Catherine, takes off.
Reminiscent of stories by authors like D. H. Lawrence or Thomas Hardy, the setting is as much a character as Catherine or Patrick is. Catherine’s entire growth occurs because of her house and her experiences in France versus in England. Ms. Thornton captures the ambiance and flavor of Cévennes with her lush descriptions and painstaking detail. In fact, she builds the setting color by color, just like Catherine builds her tapestries. The tie-in is brilliant and effective.
The Tapestry of Love is a simple and beautiful story told in an old-fashioned, meandering way that is perfect for the idyllic backdrop. Completely the opposite of today’s more popular conspiracy thrillers or sappy romantic tragedies, it is one of those novels that all but requires a cuppa while reading. More importantly, it is meant to be savored slowly, read while enjoying a quiet afternoon or two; pauses for daydreams or naps while reading are completely allowed. The Tapestry of Love provides a great relaxing escape from the mundaneness of everyday life.
Acknowledgements: Thank you to the author for my review copy!