Thursday, 10 March 2011

Cloudy day reading


Cloudy days can come as a surprise in Provence. Cerulean blue is the usual outlook, despite the knowledge that winters can be harsh. But when the vineyard down the hill takes on these soft grey tones, it means a perfect afternoon for reading.

There’s nothing I like more than a book trail, where one leads on to another, linked in some way. Recently I’ve read three books about the Cévennes, that isolated and  mountainous region on the other side of the stately Rhone to the north-west of Avignon. Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879) is Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic account of a 120-mile walking trip he made alone with the obdurate donkey Modestine. It’s one of his earliest works, and its enduring popularity is surely to do with his wonderful descriptions of the landscape:

 It was already warm. I tied my jacket on the pack, and walked in my knitted waistcoat.  Modestine herself was in high spirits, and broke of her own accord, for the first time in my experience, into a jolting trot that set the oats swashing in the pocket of my coat. The view, back upon the northern Gévaudan, extended with every step; scarce a tree, scarce a house, appeared upon the fields of wild hill that ran north, east, and west, all blue and gold in the haze and sunlight of the morning. A multitude of little birds kept sweeping and twittering about my path (…), translucent flickering wings between the sun and me.

The other two books are much more recent. Both are novels in which descriptive writing about the countryside is equally lyrical and accomplished.

Trespass by Rose Tremain is a tale as brooding as the peaks and dark valleys she describes. It’s a novel about the outsiders who arrive in the Cévennes, searching for a paradise that exists partly in their own imaginations, and in collusion with each other. A British brother and sister, Anthony and Veronica Verey, begin a search for his perfect new life close to where she lives with her partner, Kitty. They are mirrored by the French owners of the property they fix on, Aramon Lumel and his sister Audrun, whose relationship is as fissured as the large crack in the old family farmhouse he makes a bodged attempt to hide. The dreamy, tragic air of the novel fuses perfectly the contrast between illusion and reality, until it acquires the quality of a fable from La France profonde.

The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton is also beautifully written, building a sensuous picture of the Cévennes, from the dampness of granite flagstones, to the “layer upon layer of blue mountain silhouettes, fading into bluer skies”. Again, it concerns the search for a rural idyll, but Catherine Parkstone, although not so very much younger than Tremain’s Veronica Verey, seems a more contemporary and believable heroine, as she sets about overcoming the nasty surprises and setbacks inherent in beginning a new life abroad - and perhaps even a new relationship. Catherine is a properly-rounded and sympathetic character, who easily engages our affection. Though less of a novel of ideas than Trespass, it is in some ways the more enjoyable for it.

25 comments:

RICHARD MOISAN said...

De nombreux romans se passent dans les Cévennes. Comme dans le Lubéron, il est facile de décrire le paysage avec de multiples adjectifs. Un écrivain ne peut être que conquis par ces régions du sud de la France! Le lecteur, lui, ne peut résister à l'appel, et entre de plein fouet dans le roman. Si l'histoire est belle, on s'y sent bien.
Bonne journée, Deborah!

Jennifer O. said...

Your posts make me want to drop everything and fly over there! Makes me look around and this humid flat climate of Gulf Coast Texas and kick someone in the shins. *lol*

bookspersonally said...

Oh I loved Trespass! Tapestry of Love sounds... well, lovely. I always feel a little bit transported when I visit your blog.

le blÖg d'Ötli said...

Je crois que le gris, la brume, le froid me mettent aussi "in the mood" pour lire ! Et j'ai de quoi faire ! Car près de Paris, le gris est souvent au programme !
Merci pour ces conseils de lecture (ou souvenirs concernant Stevenson) et ce petit saut dans les si belles Cévennes.

✿ ♥ France ✿ ✿ said...

COUCOU tu sais je ne peux pas tout arriver à comprendre et je n'arrive pas à me servir de la traduction j'espère que je ne suis pas la seule.
Mais je vois ta photo et je pense que c'est déjà une bonne chose* DU froid je pense.Dire qu'ici il fait si beau
Je t'embrasse et ma fauvette aussi

Airelle said...

interesting, Cévennes beeing my new country!

lisa :) said...

I love the idea of books linking up to each other - I do that so often in my reading without even realizing it! I have Tapestry of Love on my next-to-read list so I'm glad to hear it was good!

Kiki aka Victoria said...

Woah...Fabulous photo..that gorgeous vineyard looks beautifully haunting and full of poetry! Gorgeous books..thanks for another magical post!

MuMuGB said...

If it is of any help, it was raining in London. And it was probably warmer in Provence...thanks for the book suggestions!

BALBUZARD said...

Votre venue chez moi me fait un énorme plaisir....
Ayant était élevé dans un quartier populaire de Paris... celui de "Maurice Chevalier", d'ailleurs son lieu de naissance était à 200 mètres de chez moi .. j' ai hérité de l'accent mais pas de la conversation.. !!
Dites moi comment traduire votre blog .. qui est très frais avec des photos magnifiques..
A bientôt j'espère

Elisabeth Hirsch said...

Those sound like amazing books. I've really been into books about the royal families. It's fun when books are connected in a common theme.

vanessafrance said...

I read RLS's Travels with a Donkey a few years ago when a friend gave me a facsimile version and found it delightful. I haven't read the other two and must do so.

Melissa Romo said...

Well, it's raining in New Jersey today, so this was a fine post to come across! Thanks for these reviews... they all sound scrumptious!

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Cloudy weather is my fave for reading. It also happens to be my fave weather for writing too so I'm often torn about what to do. Great reviews :)

BookBelle said...

You have been reading some seriously good stuff here! I love your cloudy day picture - so beautiful. I am going to have to get the map out. The places you describe sound fairy tale-ish.

Leovi said...

Me too I love gray days with the air of intimacy, it is true that invite you to spend the evening at home warm with a good book in hand, is one of my greatest pleasures.Saludos.

litlove said...

I am so glad you enjoyed Trespass, which I recently bought (and am looking forward to), and I'm a big fan of Rosy Thornton. When we have a run of hot sunny days in this country (rare, I know!) I especially love the clouds or summer rain that finally breaks them up. It feels so soft and gentle and calming after the vibrancy of the heat. Perfect reading conditions as you say!

♫ Florian ♪ said...

je viens te dire bonjour

Genie -- Paris and Beyond said...

Fabulous recommendations and I am off to find the Stevenson book for starters. Your gray-day photo of the vineyard is divine with its soft colors and looks like a pastel.

Bises,
Genie

Brenda Kezar said...

I'm definitely putting the books on my to-be-read list; I could use a get-away, even if it's just entering the book for a while, lol.

And speaking of get-aways... I've received the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award award and I'm passing it on to you. Every time I visit your blog, with it's lovely pictures and wonderful descriptions, it's like taking a little vacation!

Janel said...

All of these books sound wonderful. I love traveling from the comfort of my couch!

Cathy Kozak said...

Oh I wish cloudy days were as unexpected in this wild mountain valley I call home! My thanks for the book recommendations. Now, if we could just pair the book with the perfect bottle of wine that would bring out the book's subtleties, I might not give a stitch about this overcast day...

KalpanaS said...

the references to other writers adds to the magic of the place described. Thanks!

Nancy StylenDecorDeals.blogspot.com said...

Lovely blog! Gorgeous photos! New follower!
The Tapestry of Love sounds enjoyable.
If interested, visit my "kind of French feel" blog of style and decor deals.

http://stylendecordeals.blogspot.com/

Michelle said...

HI there! Hopping in from Friday's hop. I've always wanted to visit France! I don't have time to look at everything right now, as I have to go separate two children. But, I will be following so that I can catch up sometime soon!
Michelle
http://www.heartfeltbalancehandmadelife.blogspot.com

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