Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton and Q & A session with Rosy

I was so pleased to receive a copy of The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton from the lady herself, a couple of my friends had raved about this novel and I was intending to read it, so Rosy's kind offer of a copy to review was much appreciated.

It's a wonderful read and I've included my full review below, I have a passion for stories about people moving abroad, especially when food is such a big feature of the story.

It brought back some happy memories of a wonderful long weekend that we spent in Normandy last December.

We rented a gorgeous cottage with an enormous log fire, the cottage really was out in the sticks and we spent the whole three days sampling the wonderful food which we cooked on the Aga and exploring the countryside.
We stayed at Clos Christina in Les Mesnils near Dieppe.
We enjoyed it so much that we've booked a four night break for December 2011.

Rosy has also been kind enough to answer a few questions about herself and her reading and writing habits.  I am hoping to have a series of 'Author Questions and Answers' over the coming months and Rosy was kind enough to be my first victim!

My thoughts on The Tapestry of Love:

"Starting from the beautiful front cover picture and continuing through to the end of the 400 pages, The Tapestry of Love is a joy to read. This is a story of discovery and hope and new beginnings.  The story begins with Catherine, the forty-something main character who has sold her English house, uprooted herself from her children, her ex-husband and her elderly Mother and bought a house in the French mountains.  She intends to start a small business, selling her needlework to the locals and hopes to be as self-sustaining as she can.

Catherine is a character that I warmed to immediately, she is sensible yet daring, friendly yet quite insular and like most of us, has her faults and knows them.  As Catherine introduces herself to the small farming community around her, the reader becomes entranced by rural French life.  The characters are so well-drawn, the descriptions of the countryside, the mountains, the weather are wonderful - you really are transported right into the heart of the community.   

The enigmatic Patrick Castagnol adds an air of mystery to the story - there is a definitely a connection between him and Catherine which is very soon upset by the appearance of her sister Bryony - a London lawyer who descends upon them, stirs up their relationship and then flees back to England.

I've always loved novels that include food and recipes and in a truly French manner, mealtimes are something of an event in this story, with each dish described in full - enough to start my tummy rumbling and my mouth watering.

This is a really satisfying read, it's a love story but not just between the characters, it's also the story of how Catherine fell in love with the French way of life, the food, the countryside and the people in the village."

Questions and Answers with Rosy Thornton

What are you reading at the moment?   I'm in the middle of Hans Fellada's 'Alone In Berlin' (a recent translation of a German novel from the 1940s, about a couple resisting Nazism).  It's an unusual choice for me - rather bleaker than my typical reading - but it's a great testament to the resilience of humanity when the world all around is turning inhuman.

Do you read reviews of your novels?  Do you take them seriously?  Yes, I do like to read reviews, good and bad, and I always take them seriously.  Writing is, after all, an exercise in communication, yet authors send their books out into what often feels like deafening silence.  Finding out what readers think - whether through reviews, or the occasional letter or e-mail - and reading real responses to my stories and characters is a privilege and a pleasure.

How long does it take to write a novel?   It usually takes me around nine or ten months to write a book.  I am fitting in my novel-writing around a full-time job (I lecture in Law at the University of Cambridge) and a family (two daughters, aged 14 and 12), so time is limited.  I mostly write for an hour or so every day, in the early morning while the house is still asleep.

Do you have any writing rituals?  Not really - though my preference is to have a mug of coffee at my elbow and a spaniel asleep at my feet.  But because my time for writing is tight, I find I can and do write anywhere; in bed, in the dentist's waiting room, on the back of a shopping list while waiting at red traffic lights ....  I've even jumped dripping from the bath to jot down snatches of dialogue before I forget them.

What was your favourite childhood book?  There were so many - but perhaps the one which stands out is 'Sajo and the Beaver People' by Grey Owl.  I remember crying buckets over it, and being told off for getting it damp because it was a library book!  I was a sucker for animal books, and the sadder the better; 'Black Beauty', 'Tarka the Otter', 'The Call of the Wild'.....

Name one book that made you laugh?   Marina Lewycka's 'A Short History of Tractors in the Ukrainian' - though it's also a very sad book.

Name one book that made you cry?  Apart from those animal books, as a kid?  One novel I particularly remember crying over is Marge Piercey's 'Gone to Soldiers' - a sweeping story of bravery and love and loss among a group of Jewish families during the Second World War.

Which fictional character would you like to meet?   My soft spot has always been for feisty females, from Elizabeth Bennet onwards.  Perhaps the one I'd single out would be Harriet Vane from Dorothy L Sayer's  Lord Peter Wimsey novels.  She is determined, courageous, self-aware  ..... and falls in love with Peter only on her own terms.
I'd also love to meet Hermione Granger - preferably in an admissions interview.  Wouldn't it be great to have her as a student?

Which book would you give to your best friend as a present?   I recently read 'A Gate at the Stairs' by Lorrie Moore, an author whose work I have previously somehow missed but will certainly now be seeking out.  I've been buying this one for all my friends.  Every sentence is a joy.

Are you inspired by any particular author or book?   I began writing fiction as a direct result of Elizabeth Gaskell's 'North and South'.  It was a favourite book of mine as a teenager, and my love of it was rekindled by watching Sandy Welch's wonderful BBC adaptation in 2004.  (Who could forget the lovely Richard Armitage smouldering in the lead role as mill-owner, John Thornton?).  I went online to read more about the series, and discovered the world of internet 'fanfic'.  This inspired me to have a go myself - and a few months later I found I had written a full-length pastiche sequel to 'North and South'.
It was utter tosh, of course, but by then I had been bitten by the writing bug, and went straight on to begin my first independent novel - published in 2006 as 'More Than Love Letters'.  It is no coincidence that the heroine of that book is called Margaret after Margaret Hale in 'North and South' - and that the hero's name is Richard.  No prizes for guessing who was firing up my imagination as I wrote the book .....

What is your guilty pleasure read?  Sometimes, a dose of funny, sassy, sexy chick-lit just hits the spot.  I'd recommend anything by Phillipa Ashley.

Who are your favourite authors?  There is a long and fairly eclectic list, but they tend to be female authors, from the classics (Austen, Eliot and Gaskell), through period fiction (Barbara Pym, Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Bowen, Penelope Fitzgerald) to contemporary writers such as Barbara Trapido, Kate Atkinson, Sarah Waters, HIlary Mantel, Anne Tyler, E Annie Proulx, Jane Smiley, Ali Smith, Margaret Atwood, AS Byatt, Rose Tremain, Margaret Forster ....... Plus, I do enjoy a bit of crime fiction (my current favourite being Donna Leon).

What book have you re-read?   The book I have probably re-read the most (apart from 'Pride and Prejudice', which I know almost by heart!) is Dorothy L Sayer's 'Gaudy Night'.  The pleasure of it never seems to diminish.
As a teenager, I also read and re-read Anya Seton's 'Katherine' until it fell to pieces.

What book have you given up on?  Quite a few, I must admit, but the one I feel most guilty about is Salman Rushdie's 'Midnight's Children'.  I've tried to read it three times but never made it past the half-way mark.

Thank you so much, Anne, for letting me come to your blog and answer your questions.  It's been great fun!

And, thank you from me, to you Rosy, for sending the copy of your novel and for giving such interesting answers to my questions.
Good luck with your next book!


  1. Great interview.
    I loved this novel too.


  2. This sounds a really interesting book Anne. I haven't heard of this author before so will be looking on Amazon for this. Thanks for the review.