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4.8 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 4 March 2012
After a long interlude, I was delighted to resume reading about Karen's adventures in her village. In this third volume, aptly named 'Tout Soul' Karen here bares her soul indeed with her typical candid, honest, and endearing manner. If Tout Sweet and Toute Allure were trepidant with joy and fun, there is in this one a much darker tone. As Biff, the little cheerful black dog trutts his way along Karen's side, there is also on another level, a much sadder 'black dog' shadowing Karen's whole world and soul...Yet for all the hard stuff coming up at her, you have to marvel at Karen's resilience and spirit in face of life 's cruel turn...Never losing her keen eye for people's funny aspects of character, most of the book is an absolute delight of highly amusing observations and happenings...But alas, even in a peaceful and lovely french village, tragedy beckons and the second half of the book cannot easily be read without a tissue at hand...After a desperate struggle to find happiness in the midst of loss and grief, Karen manages to gives us an uplifting, beautiful conclusion...In the harsh world of today, no doubt that readers will connect with her efforts and take comfort in her new found peace of mind...
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on 20 March 2012
I live in the Poitou-Charentes area and have to say I normally steer away from books that say "I moved to France and....." However, Karen Wheeler's books are far more along the lines of 'A Year in Provence' - and that is meant to be a compliment.
I enjoyed her previous books, but think this is the best one so far. It is not necessary to read the previous books as they are all stand-alone, combining 90% fact with 10% fiction, thus protecting the names of the actual people and villages involved.
The sub-title is "The Pursuit of Happiness in Rural France" and there is a lot of soul-searching throughout the book, mainly due to hearing untrue gossip about loved ones and loss of trust in a friend who lets her down.
However, she weaves a good story with great atmosphere and you can imagine the clatter and noise in the Cafe du Commerce where villagers gather for morning coffee to put the world to rights. We follow her unfortunate love story with Luis throughout the book, but she has lovely characterisations of Delphine, the Mayor of a nearby village, and Magda, the ebullient Portuguese cleaner. One character who remains stable and lovable is Biff, Karen Wheeler's black dog - read about how she 'acquired' him in her previous book "Tout Allure".
I agree with other reviewers - this book will make you laugh, then cry and then say "aaaah". A very true experience of life in rural France so if you want to move here, read this book!
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on 22 March 2012
Just finished reading Tout Soul. Fabulous, funny and heartbreakingly sad.
So many emotions in one book.
We were on the table next to you on NYE when Biff made a dash for the food.
Then reading about L'Ecurie, which incidentally we thought was OUR discovery, I felt as though
I was reading parts of my diary lol

Can't wait for the next one of your adventures with Biff - the Leader of
the Pack :)
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on 4 January 2013
I was very suspicious of this book to start with as I am allergic to 'chick lit' and deliberately chose only to read the last one in the series as it looked the least 'gushing' from the reviews. I did really enjoy it and appreciated the serious side of the book as well as the earlier comedy. I have always fantasised about living in France so it was a nice indulgence for me. Read it on my kindle to avoid having to expose my proclivities to my husband, but ended up telling him about it as I enjoyed it so much!
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on 30 March 2012
I have raced through Karen's books one after the other and loved every one, but if anything her writing has just got better and better with each book. Tout Soul, as other reviewers have already stated, has a wonderful blend of happy and sad, with such depth of emotion you are carried along with her willing things to come right for her and all her friends. Amidst all her problems Karen manages to see the joy and beauty in small things and conveys them in beautiful prose. I adore le petit Biff and as a dog lover myself I understand how supportive and uplifting owning a pet can be when you are going through dark times. I look forward to the next instalment and meantime will have to 'keep in touch' via her blog! Keep them coming Ka-renne.
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on 30 April 2014
Life, wherever you live, doesn’t always give you sunny courtyards and glasses of rosé wine and this book is an honest, but very readable account of a difficult time in Karen's life. Her relationship is not going well, she falls out of love with French village life and then her world is turned upside down by an accident involving a friend.

This is a heart-wrenching and far more emotional read than Karen's first two books, Tout Sweet and Toute Allure. However despite the somewhat subdued feel, Karen is still able to bring alive the changing seasons of the Poitou-Charentes countryside, that I know and love so well, with her descriptions of her daily walks with Biff, her beloved doggy companion. Having Biff and his need for routine and care really gave meaning to her life during the dark times and his antics often made me smile. She captures perfectly the café culture and the important part it plays in French village life and the characters she writes about feel very real. She also has the ability to write about very personal situations with honesty, openness and without making the reader feel uncomfortable, but a box of tissues may come in handy.

I am looking forward to reading more about Karen's life in her next book.
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on 12 March 2012
Loved it. Have been eagerly awaiting this, the third of Karen Wheeler's books about her life in the Poitou Charentes region of France. This book is a much more sombre read that the other two. It is the story of hearbreak & how Ms Wheeler deals with that & the tragedy that unfolds. It is sad & the author is very honest, painfully so at times, about her feelings. Ultimately though, how she deals with what life has thrown at her actually proves uplifting. There are still amusing episodes & characters & the author never loses her sense of humour. The main thing for me is I care what happens to the people in the book because they are real & real life is what happens to them. I love the way Karen Wheeler writes - you feel as though you are there in the cafe drinking coffee with the locals & might just see Karen trotting across the square with her dog, Biff. This is a story of love, real love, unselfish love. I just hope we don't have to wait too long for book 4.
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on 23 May 2012
Karen Wheeler bruised my heart with this beautifully written, poignant, brutally honest book, which illustrates the triumph of the human spirit with much more clarity than many books written for this specific purpose. I feel humbled in the face of Karen's courage and capacity for love and forgiveness - and she still managed to make me laugh out loud and transport me out of the grimy city into the blue skies and golden fields of Poitou Charente. When a writer can not only make you laugh and make you cry, but also thouroughly entertain you and make you take a step back and think, this is a true gift. 'Tout Soul' deserves to be right up there in the 'Best Seller' list. Like all Karen's readers, I'm waiting for 'Tout Four'
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on 25 February 2012
I love Karen Wheeler's books and had been looking forward to this one for some time. Her characters are so well written that they become as familiar as one's own friends and you really care about what happens to them. I finished this book in two sittings(which could have easily been one-I didn't want to finish it so I switched off my kindle!) The loss she describes in this book is heart-rending and yet there is such a sense of life in the text that you cannot help but be uplifted. I think Ms Wheeler is a truly gifted author,her descriptive passages and her ability to sum up a character or a situation in a few words are signs of true talent! I really hope she writes the next one soon.
To anyone who hasn't read them already, I urge you to buy these will not be disappointed!!
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on 30 November 2015
I stayed up till 1.30 am this morning. I had to. There was no way I was putting this book down until the pages ran out. Karen Wheeler is so honest and in this story she bares her soul and let's us inside. The emotions are raw, deep and very movingly portrayed. You don't need to read the earlier two books but I recommend that you do so you get the full impact of this, much more serious and sad tale. We've all made mistakes in our lives but few of us examine our souls quite so openly or with such generosity as Karen Wheeler.
A well deserved 5 *s.
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