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 neighbours, including the intriguing Patrick Castagnol. And that’s before the arrival of Catherine’s sister, Bryony…
Catherine is a 48 year old divorcee building a new life for herself in France. She finds herself settling near the small hamlet of St Julien in the Cevennes; an area with fond memories from childhood holidays.
Naturally Catherine knows that moving to a foreign country by herself is not going to be all plain-sailing: for a start she’ll miss her family in England, and then of course there are the language and cultural barriers – she does speak pretty good French, but how will her neighbours, few though they are, take to an English woman moving into their neighbourhood? And will her French be up to dealing with all the bureaucracy which goes alongside setting up her soft furnishings business in a French national park?
Of Catherine’s new neighbours, one stands out to her in particular – Patrick Castagnol, a handsome, mysterious and, most importantly, single man. Before long a friendship develops between the two, and Catherine begins to realise that she really likes Patrick. However, who should then turn up to visit? None other than Catherine’s younger, and very pretty, sister Bryony. Bryony is a city girl through and through, and seems unlikely to forego what she considers the only really worthwhile entertainment in the area.
Patrick is certainly a very satisfying romantic interest to read about, especially in his rather sexy scene towards the end of the book: just what a girl would expect from a handsome French man. I wasn’t entirely convinced by the author’s explanation of why he’s back living in the region, but I decided to let that slide in favour of my pure enjoyment of the novel.
The very different way of life that Catherine has chosen is meticulously described, as is the area in which she decides to settle. The locals and location are idyllic in many ways, and the author quite obviously knows the region and the people very well, their good points as well as the bad! The book is slow-paced, but it mirrors the way of life in the region and so suits the style of book. I particularly enjoyed Catherine’s visit back to England when she has to make the decision whether or not to return to her life in France, isolated as it is, or take the easier route of staying in England with her family nearby.
This really is such a beautifully written book: the type that transports you into it, and leaves you a little bewildered at coming back to reality when you close it.
It’s both enjoyable and uplifting, even worth renting a cottage for in the middle of French nowhere, just to immerse yourself in it completely and enjoy it to its fullest.