The Tapestry of Love is a beautiful book and a delight to read. I am so pleased that Rosy Thornton sent me a copy to review. It’s a gentle book and yet it’s about the drama of real life, its joys and tragedies. There is romance and so much more as the story of Catherine Parkstone and her move to the Cevennes mountains in southern France, reveals. Catherine divorced eight years previously has sold her house in England and moved to the Les Fenils, a house in the tiny hamlet of Le Grelaudiere near the village of St Julien de Valvert, to start a new life as a seamstress, selling her soft furnishings – tapestries, cushions, and chair covers.
Catherine has left behind in England her daughter, Lexie, struggling to find a niche in the world of journalism, her son Tim, a scientist and her aging mother, suffering from Altzheimer’s and in a nursing home. Catherine is obviously a capable woman, a woman of common sense, but also a caring, sensitive woman, who may not be as self-sufficient as she seems. She is a creative, skilled needlewoman who has the gift of being able to reproduce on canvas what she visualises in full colour in her mind’s eye. It is this skill and her ability to make friends in her new surroundings that means she soon has a full order book. But she is reckoning without the intricacies of French bureaucracy and because her business is not ‘agricultural’ she cannot get it approved.
Despite the initial reserve of her new neighbours she becomes part of the daily life in Le Grelaudiere, helping her neighbours and being helped in return. Her nearest neighbour is Patrick Castagnol, who at first she thinks is a compatriot until she hears his flawess French. He is a bit of a mystery and when Tim visits he comments astutely that he suspects Patrick is ‘a bit too smooth for his own good’. When Bryony, Catherine’s younger sister visits she is soon smitten by his charm, leaving Catherine feeling decidedly uncomfortable.
There is so much I love in this book. Rosy has a talent for portraying relationships – not just between Patrick and the sisters, but also between the sisters and their mother, and how they cope with their mother’s illness, between Catherine and her grown-up children and between Catherine and her ex-husband. She is nothing if not resourceful. She not only sets up her business, but also grows vegetables and keeps bees. For Catherine it is a time of new beginnings, of new relationships and of letting go of the past.
I also loved Rosy’s descriptions – of the tapestries as Catherine conceives and makes them and of the wild and desolate landscape which forms the backdrop of daily life in Le Grelaudiere. It’s autumn when Catherine arrives, a season of rain and power cuts, which her neighbours describe as ‘C’est triste’. But it was still beautiful. As autumn took its course:
The skies were still pewter, but now swirled with high, wild, wind-chased clouds in shades of angry orange. The view across the valley re-emerged in all its desolate splendour. (page 61)
the sky was a luminous mauve, a colour that would never seem credible if she replicated it in a tapestry. It cast everything round her into sharp definition, giving the illusion that road and rocks and vegetation were illuminated from some hidden source, like ethereal stage lighting. She had a clear view between the trees, down to the valley of St Julien de Valvert, the ‘green valley’ – although in this light it was etched in shades of grey and pink and silver.(page 88)
As I read on I wished I could be there. It is a moving story full of wisdom and one I shall re-read.