I love this book.
It’s Karen Wheeler’s unpretentious, brave and often hilarious account of how she left her life of fashion in London to begin a “new life in France.”
“Why would someone do that?” one might wonder, and Karen quickly explains in the opening pages of her book: “To be honest, my life in London had started to seem very empty. I had wardrobes crammed with “It” bags and “must-have” shoes, most of them gifts from designers to thank me for articles I’d written, and I had cupboards full of free beauty products. I had spent most of my life so far focused on work and chasing material possessions. Now I had them in abundance and yet, at thirty-five, I was unhappy. There had to be more to life, I decided, than a stockpile of sought-after accessories.”
It was then that I knew I could sink whole heartedly into her story. There wouldn’t be games with honesty, making things look better, or worse, than they actually were. There wouldn’t be a front of superficiality to impress her readers. (Much as I’ve enjoyed Frances Mayes’ books on Tuscany, they have a certain element of arrogance which is completely absent from Karen Wheeler’s writing. And don’t ever think this is a book resembling Eat Pray and Love which I loathed for being all about Elizabeth and what she, personally, could gain.)
The house in France offered me an escape route and gave me a new focus. After buying Maison Coquelicot, I continued to live in London for another year, earning the money to do the house up. But I didn’t waste that year. I signed up for twice-weekly French classes int he evening and I read every book I could find, fiction or otherwise, on moving to rural France. Most of them were plodding, middle-aged memoirs about septic tanks, elusive artisans and epic meals. But I devoured every word, and loved their soporific, calming effect. I fell asleep each night dreaming of sunflower fields and rustic interiors. Sitting at my desk in London, I wrote lists of the work that needed to be done and the furniture that I needed to buy. I spent evenings and weekends studying paint charts and ripping pages out of country interiors magazines for inspiration. The house became my hobby and suddenly I had a goal, something to work towards.
Karen explains the process of this life changing move with a frankness and simplicity which makes one think, “Hey! Maybe I’ll follow suit!”
Because surely, she made a life which was sweet.