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Instructions For Visitors: Life and Love in a French Town Paperback – 1 Jan 2002

3.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New edition edition (1 Jan. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552999288
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552999281
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.7 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,108,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

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 children’s 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, it’s 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 Luc’s 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, it’s wonderful but it’s 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

Review

"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)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I really liked this book - full of the truth of it. How long can one go on believing the myth that moves to France are always perfect? Is it to point out that only relocators have it right and everyone else is a fool? Helen Stevenson follows her heart and we are witness to the wonder and the difficulty of that. I live in both places, but it was a relief to find a book that was temptingly and accurately evocative but utterly un-cliched. Thanks Ms Stevenson. I think you have it about right. As critics often say - a terrific read.
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Format: Paperback
This is the best travel book I have ever read.
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.
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Format: Paperback
Very sorry to say that I cannot join in with the enthusiasm of other reviewers. While I enjoyed the descriptions of the house, the neighbourhood, etc., I found the story of the relationship thoroughly depressing. Luc turns out to be a man who simply can't/won't commit and it is difficult to sympathise with the author as she persists in trying to make a go of her relationship with him, despite his continual "blowing hot and cold". I really hope her life is much happier now.
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Format: Paperback
I picked Helens book off the shelves because I recognised many of the place names, having owned a house in that part of France for nearly 20 years. I found the book incredibly poignant and moving. The fact that the authoress was purging herself of a very deep relationship was very obvious but the book was even more interesting for that very reason. This is definitely one that will not be finding it's way to the car boot or jumble sale, this is one for my bookshelf to be read over and over again.
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Format: Hardcover
This is not another book about wine makers, truffle hunting and jolly olive pickers - thank goodness! Helen writes an open and honest account of her life in le village. I do not know that area of France, yet through her writing I can walk around the square, smell the coffee and see the people. What was the spell that bound her to Luc? Her story conveys a raw honesty, laying bare her thoughts. A lovely book.
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Format: Paperback
Despite all the bad reviews I would like to state that this is a fantastic NOVEL. It is,indeed, not a travel guide, but it gives a fantastic idea of how the region is. Use your fantasy ( and a good map errrrr [...] viamichelin??? google) and you know where the story is set. How intriguing ... is it true does that painter really exist. Shall I go and look?? Will I embarrass myself by asking where is ....? How sensitive the I figure is. How is she now?Of course, she is only fiction or ... is she?? is she Helen or isn't she? Anyhow I love her.

Advice to reader of this review "READ IT!
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Format: Hardcover
"Instructions for Visitors" is a wonderfully witty, cunning and tender book and I cannot think of a more talented writer in the English- speaking world of publishing. I kid you NOT, reader, don't waste time and buy this book right away!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I’m only part way through this book but am already completely drawn in by Helen Stevenson’s effortless, graceful prose. I read it in indulgent snatches in between other tasks and keep interrupting my husband’s day to read him passages. Helen Stevenson makes le village and all its characters live and breathe in the imagination. There are no false notes. I have no idea if every detail is factually faithful to the events of real life but each sentence is utterly ‘true’.
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