If you are lucky enough to find your place, you should never actually live in it, never make it your home. And never live with the man you think you cannot live without.
Le Village is a small town at the southwestern-most tip of France. Here a young Englishwoman fell in love with France, the French and one Frenchman in particular.
In her seductive, lyrical and witty memoir Helen Stevenson writes about life in Le Village, not as an expat, but as someone adopted by her neighbours as one of their own. By Stefan, the Maoist tennis fanatic, who lives off his lover in solidarity with the unemployed; by Gigi, the chic Parisian who dresses her ex-lovers' girlfriends from the stock of her exquisite boutique; and by Luc, the crumpled cowboy painter and part-time dentist, who, overcoming an aversion to blondes, takes the Englishwoman up to his remote mas, shows her his paintings and teaches her to ride.
Describing the colour and light of the landscape with lyrical intensity, and savouring the languid and sexy flavour of the Mediterranean lifestyle, Helen Stevenson lays bare a romantic but potentially disastrous love affair with the man 'who seems like the only man alive to me, the one with the halo round his head in a crowd, if I should ever see him in a crowd'. INSTRUCTIONS FOR VISITORS may start as an objective guide for tenants arriving at her village house, but it ends as a very personal revelation of how difficult it can be to transplant oneself into someone else's country, someone else's culture, someone else's heart.
A beautifully tactile and relective meditation on the outsider's experience of a community, it is sharp and lyrical, occasionally a little whimsical, but always pushing towards the truth.
The most authentic, enjoyable and evocative book on French village life that I have read in years.
A warm and wistful account of adapting to a new country and the heartache it brings.
Wonderfully evocative, with a plangent note of longing, this is one for those dreary February commutes to work.
As beguiling and as enigmatically seductive a piece of writing as you could ask for . . . A beautifully tactile and reflective meditation on the outsider's experience of a community.