Instructions For Visitors: Life and Love in a French Town Paperback – 1 Jan 2002
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Instructions for Visitors describes life and love in a village in southwestern France as seen through the eyes of British novelist Helen Stevenson. Fortunately, her eye is a discerning one as she settles into everyday living. Her writing captures the sense of bustling village culture; shopping, eating and café society are high on the agenda, as is art--not surprising in a place where the light and scenery are so beautiful that the village has, over the years, attracted Picasso and Matisse, among others. This beauty is not lost on Stevenson ("this part of the world is like a colour wheel") and her imagery is poetic and striking: " each house looks like a childrens dressing-up trunk that has been plundered, contents spilling out into the sun".
Not surprisingly, in this setting romance seems almost inevitable and the recently divorced Stevenson embarks on an affair with charismatic local artist, Luc, who is also the village dentist. She is mesmerised by him and the book follows their relationship, allowing for some wonderfully atmospheric passages--for example, their horse-ride in the mountains--as she describes the ups and downs of their life together. Through Luc she also meets other local, eccentric characters and writes about them sensitively and entertainingly so that Instructions for Visitors is enriched by the glimpses into their lives too.
As her relationship progresses, its clear that Luc is charming but complicated and very much his own man: "It is as if God wrote lots of little instructions at the beginning of the world, like 'build cities', 'make maps', 'invent printing press' Luc had taken the one that said 'sit under tree and watch spider.'" Other women from Lucs colourful past make fleeting appearances; one of his ex-girlfriends, the middle-aged Gigi, runs the local village dress shop and takes Stevenson under her (style) wing as she advises her on her clothes.
Stevenson is not unhappy, however, with this lifestyle and uncertain relationship. There is a distinct sense that she is walking away from her previous life and that her final destination is not yet clear "This is not my life, its wonderful but its not my life", she says--is she herself perhaps the "visitor" of the title?
Instructions for Visitors is about living and loving in a village in a beautiful part of the world and it describes this admirably and poetically. However, Stevenson has also convincingly conveyed, sometimes enigmatically, the sense of an inner journey that people who travel and who seek to find new lives also experience en route. --Christina McLoughlin
"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 Times)
"The most authentic, enjoyable and evocative book on French village life that I have read in years." (Joane Harris, author of Chocolat)
"A warm and wistful account of adapting to a new country and the heartache it brings." (Elle)
"Wonderfully evocative, with a plangent note of longing, this is one for those dreary February commutes to work." (Marie Claire)
"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." (Elizabeth Buchan The Times)
Top Customer Reviews
It is atmospheric, eloquent and so good i was afraid to finish reading it.
It gives such a perfect picture of place and time that I felt I was actually there. Some of the inages are so perfect I had to go back to read them again when I got to the end.
I cannot believe my luck at coming across this book, next time I visit this area it will be in my hand.
Thankyou to the authour.
Advice to reader of this review "READ IT!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Sweet, but rather dated description of life and love in Ceret before the euro. Good descriptions of town and countryside.Published 24 months ago by Laurian Adams
This book leaves so much out, it makes me angry. I have read this book before years ago, and thought I would give it another go. Read morePublished on 28 April 2013 by sos
I have read this book a few times, it is a good easy read for when I am in a bit of a holiday mood. I like the style of writing which is straight forward and simple I keep it as a... Read morePublished on 24 April 2011 by A. Revell
I found this hard work. Even though I persisted and finished it - it's not a very long book - I didn't feel that the ending gave me a satisfactory feeling. Read morePublished on 24 Dec. 2010 by Mrs. G. B. A. Morris
Badly written and with no depth at all, would say it has to be one of the worst books I've read for a long while.Published on 22 Aug. 2010 by Odette
Not great literature, but interesting for anyone visiting the area around Perpignan, France, especially the town of Céret.Published on 28 April 2010 by Mme Susan Wallis
Childish and badly written sum up the way this book is put together. Her style is lumpy and dull; her story pathetic and disappointing. Read morePublished on 1 July 2004