Saturday, December 18, 2010

You Can't Judge a Book By Its Title

I admit it-I am a romance novel snob.  Not in a only-the-best-romance-writer-for-me kind of way, but in a I-can't believe-anyone-reads-this-drivel way.  While I am not trying to imply anything about the relative maturity of readers of romance novels (after all, some of my best friends are romance readers), I haven't really enjoyed a romance novel since I was about 19.  I'm not anti-romance in general-I like a good literary love story.  But genre romance novels leave me pretty cold.

So it was with some trepidation that I agreed to read The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton.  I mean, that title!  Isn't there something inherently cheesy about any phrase that ends with "of love".  Think Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News.  Major cheesefest!  And the publisher's blurb wasn't much help...
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A warm and uplifting story of how a woman falls in love with a place and its people: a landscape, a community and a fragile way of life. A rural idyll: that's what Catherine is seeking when she sells her house in England and moves to a tiny hamlet in the Cevennes 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.

Sounds like a formula romance novel, right?  But I read it, and here are the two reasons why-
  • it was free
  • it was British
Yep, I'm a cheap date sometimes. 

Lucky for me, you can't always judge a book by its title.  The publisher did this one an injustice in the blurb making it seems as though the romance was the central story.  What Thornton wrote is a novel about a woman transitioning from one stage of her adulthood to another.  It is not a love story in the strictest sense of the word, but a story about the many loves that surround us-love of self, love for family, love for community, and, yes, love of a partner.

I found the book charming.  The descriptions of the Cevennes region of France evoked a slowed down, quiet pace of life that I found myself envying.  But not everything was perfect in Catherine's new world-the French government and their bureaucracy being the most obvious example.  Her plan upon moving to France was to start a small custom needlepoint/soft furniture business (hence the tapestry of the title).  She runs up against the French prohibition of any non-farming business opening within Cevennes National Parc.  Questioning her place in France, she is drawn back to England in the wake of her mother's death, ultimately forcing her to choose where she feels she belongs.  And yes, she was eventually forced to confront the feelings she had developed for the Patrick Castagnol mentioned in the publisher's blurb.  But the romance is only one aspect of the larger story of a woman choosing her own path.  And frankly, in the time that she has lived alone, first in England after her children went away to school and then in France, she has grown accustomed to her independence and peace.  The resolution is one that I think is more realistic and less simplistic than a lot of love stories turn out to be.  Which is just fine by me.

Cevennes Mountains, France

What Catherine's rural idyll make have looked like

3 comments:

  1. So nice when books surprise you like this! Glad you enjoyed it--great review....

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  2. What a fantastic review! I read this one recently and couldn't have said it better myself. The title? Beyond cheesy. But the actual content? Very different from what I would have expected.

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  3. I love your blog. The post was very enlightening. The cover is definitely what attracts me and I think despite the title, I would have picked it up. Glad you enjoyed it.
    Ann

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