The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton
The cover picture on Rosy Thornton’s new novel, The Tapestry of Love, is beautiful – one of the finest I’ve seen, and if there’s a competition for the best or most evocative cover, then this should be entered for it. The picture leaves the reader in no doubt that he/she is going to read about rural France. Yet for all my enthusiasm, it doesn’t do the story justice.
This is an outstanding read, pulling the reader straight into the Cévennes mountain region of France with such simplicity and effectiveness. The novel starts with the main character’s car being stuck in a straggling flock of sheep which Catherine is not used to, making her imagine a flood in which her car may dislodge and “be swept downstream with the sheep”. Just the next day she answers her cottage door (which I imagine to be the one on the cover) to a local farmer delivering a consignment of hay which Catherine has no idea what to do with. Rosy Thornton is brilliant at conveying scenes that the reader believes he/she is also living and therefore sharing, first-hand, the experiences of the characters.
Catherine has no super-powers, she’s not a powerful, beautiful heroine, yet I wanted her for my best friend. She’s warm-hearted, with a quiet bravery that she plays down. She is generous and makes friends easily, melting the hearts of the “suspicious of outsiders” locals. Soon she becomes part of the community and even manages to cope with the excessive bureaucracy without pulling her hair out.
This is a warm, inviting book, even though the love-attraction is flawed (albeit handsome and in many ways appealing) with secrets only revealed towards the end.
The array of characters have their individual foibles: there’s the selfish sister, the very funny daughter who can’t settle and the quiet, studious son. And that’s not counting the colourful local characters who have to face their own problems. No-one can accuse this novel of being boring or repetitive.
But Rosy Thornton is a master of description. She brings the story alive, either through the pelting weather: “through the descending curtain of gray she could make out the gate at the end of his yard” or through the markets heaving under their selections of fruit and vegetables: “fat, blanched leeks (and) butter beans for drying, their creamy pods stippled with purple”. She sees the countryside as an artist, “the sky was a luminous mauve…giving the illusion that road and rocks and vegetation were illuminated from some hidden source, like ethereal stage lighting”.
And it doesn’t end there. If we can feel and see the story, we can also taste it. This is the world of thick green soup, of dates and bacon, of wild mushrooms on toast, of wild boar and venison, and a scrumptious Mirabelle tart.
I was so enthralled, I didn’t want the book to end. It certainly is a page-turner, but I savoured it, restricting myself to just a few pages per day because I knew that when I finished it, I’d feel I’d lost a friend. And I did.
Buy it on Amazon UK.
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