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on 17 April 2017
fascinating story of ex-pats
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on 26 November 2002
I would give it 10 stars if I could. I bought it with some cynicism. I enjoy the genre but was not interested in yet another book about French delicacies, lavender, scenery and climate. Rosemary has struck a brilliant balance in Life in a Postcard. There is something for everyone. It is a frank account of the challenges in setting up a home away from home in a country that is riddled with hurdles and difficulties that few of us will come across on casual visits.
Rosemary writes beautifully about her beloved monastery, about the trials and tribulations of bringing up a child largely on her own and doing her best to ensure that he is well integrated and happy in his new environment. For all their qualities the “Driving over Lemons” of this world lack the depth of historical knowledge, insightfulness and incisiveness that you will find in “Life in a Postcard”. I cannot recommend it enough.
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on 15 September 2002
A really evocative and well-written book. The author not only draws us into the daily frustrations and joys of buying a dream home abroad - in this case a ruined medieval monastery - but paints a fascinating picture of rural village life in French Catalonia, a community that is multi-cultural in the extreme, with ex-pats, many of them hippies, from all European countries living in surprising harmony.
Move over Peter Mayle et al - this book deserves to be a bestseller.
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on 28 January 2004
I really enjoyed this - the author paints an alluring picture of her extraordinary life in a tiny village in the Pyrenees, and the real sense of community there. Rosemary Bailey writes very well indeed and there's a nice balance of inner dialogue and honesty with the strong sense of place. Really makes you want to go there...
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on 12 June 2012
I really loved this book and even dashed off an excited email to the author. It's the most intimate, heart-warming account of how she and her husband bought and restored a ruined monastery in the Pyrenees. However, as an editor, I think her whole book should have been taken into hand a bit more ruthlessly and been better shaped; I'm sure Rosemary Bailey wrote this over quite a while, probably using lots of diaries and notebooks along the way. She adds in the odd recipe, the odd Day in the Life of a Monk/Hermit, etc, and plenty of descriptions of her wacky neighbours, some of it not sitting quite comfortably together and some rather repeating other sections. HOWEVER, I couldn't put it down, and was held spellbound. It rather helped that I know the area very well myself, had the same builder to restore our own village house, and am similarly romantically inclined over rapturous mountain views, yummy wines and cheeses, the mystical mountain of Canigou, the vagaries of French local politics, blah blah. I'm impressed that she actually made the break and came with her son to live in the semi-ruin, which we haven't dared impose on our children. An even better title by Ms Bailey is her 'Love and War in the Pyrenees', which is more tightly written.
Buy and love this anyway - deeply evocative of the area, and so many times better than Peter Mayle of yore...
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on 9 September 2011
I bought this book because we are thinking of holidaying in this part of France having seen the scenery on the TV coverage of the Tour de France. I thoroughly enjoyed it though the first chapter was a tad off-putting, monks have never been my thing, but I carried on and although I didn't find it un-put-downable I liked her style and read it at every opportunity. Unlike other books in this genre she doesn't recall every conversation she has ever had verbatim and she freely admits to not speaking French well whereas many other authors have total recall and never mention whether they speak the language fluently or not! Believe me I have read scores of books on relocating to another country, having taken the plunge some time ago, some like this one very good and some really dire.
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on 28 April 2003
I bought this book with high hopes, having read some of the reviews, but was disappointed. The author writes well about some of the scenery and culture of the region, but if I had wanted a history lesson I would have bought a history book! The passages where the thoughts/feelings of monks were imagined were just embarrassing padding. I would have welcomed far more detail about the building, the region, timescales, costings, and future plans. I'm a sucker for any book about France/Spain/Italy, but this was a real disappointment, hence my first ever review for Amazon! I think Peter Mayle's crown is safe.
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on 28 March 2015
I thought this book was a great primer for our move to France. I learnt a lot about all sorts of pitfalls and unexpected advantages that I did not think were there.
The only criticism would be that Rosemary is a good writer and always used a lot of evocative description but I just did not feel that she felt it herself. I felt she was 'trying' to feel these feelings but because she couldn't she wrote them down. Still, it is good writing.
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on 16 April 2002
There is a little-known part of the French Pyrenees which is the new Provence: Ms Bailey's luminous evocation of the inscape and landscape of her Romanesque monastery and its environs vividly evokes the past, the present, and the way the future could re-shape the lives of the rural villages of Europe. Mostly, the book's about her ruined Romanesque monastery and how she lived there, how they rebuild it. But, shimmering through the story like the underthread of shot silk is also her own personal journey of rediscovery.
You can smell the rosemary and mimosa: taste the hot sunlight, heavy with herbs and ripe peaches. She is honest about the tramontane - mist and rainbows and terrifying destruction. Her description of the smallest ski-station in Europe is, well, you have to read it. I like the honesty of this book. Despite the Country Living scenery and lifestyle, she captures the honesty of the small, rural, mountain village. Its rough edges, its values, its humour, its - Life.
Throughout her story she weaves the life of the medieval monastic tradition, mixing pages of historical detail, myth, and romance with summer menus, gardening, family incident, moments of accidie, catharsis and celebration, observations on the politics of modern Europe. If there isn't a Channel Four Sunday night serial or at the very least a documentary in this book then someone isn't doing their job properly. This book cries out to be photographed. It's a Sunday night-in-the-winter sort of book, a lazy-summer afternoon-in-the-hammock book, almost poetic, a Journal : part architectural lovestory, part landscape, leavened with recipes and seasoned with politics: you can't really call it a Travel book because mostly she stays right there. Although you do get a brief introduction you to the some of the treasures of that lesser-known part of the Mediterranean coast which laps both France and Spain - Collioure, the "other" Dali house on the coast…Every page has something interesting or unusual or thought-provoking or vivid. And I totally agree with what she says about lavender oil.
Rosemary Bailey has written the book that needed to be written for this part of Europe. I know, because I've got this old village house…..but hopefully, one day, that'll be another story. In the meantime, don't book your holiday till you've read this.
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on 7 November 2013
Too much information about the monks in the first part of the book, but really enjoyed the factual information about the area and how the family coped. Enjoyed following the progress of their son at a French school and the re-building of their monastery. Amazing diligence on research of the building by the husband and how Rosemary lived amongst the rubble shows great stamina. Good luck to them in the future.
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