Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tout Sweet by Karen Wheeler

Karen Wheeler had it all.  She was a fashion writer and spent her days at glamorous design parties, the top restaurants and in association with the top names in fashion.  She had more handbags and shoes than most small villages could muster with all the households combined.  She spent her days in a whirl of shopping, parties, and the best that the fashion world could offer.

But something was missing.  She was tiring of the hustle and bustle and the emptiness of a life without someone to share it with.  The man of her dreams had abruptly left, and she couldn't seem to move on.  Karen started to take classes to fill her weekends and at one, met a man who was creating a French bed and breakfast place.  He invited her to France to see what he was doing, and she accepted.  While there, in idle conversation, the fact that a house in the village was available came up and before she knew it, she had viewed it and bought it in one day!

Tout Sweet is the story of the first year of Karen's life in her new surroundings, and the change from a luxury flat in London to a house in rural France that had been neglected.  When she moved in, there was no running water, no modern bathroom, no kitchen facilities or even a kitchen floor!  The reader goes through the renovation with Karen, lovingly creating a house that was warm and inviting.

It is also the story of how she learned to slow her life and love it in the present instead of always waiting for the future.  Most of the village inhabitants were older, retirees from England along with the native French.  Karen made good friends here, friends that she had time to involve in her life.  She learned to enjoy the simple pleasures of long country walks, fresh baked croissants in the morning, and sitting in her courtyard at the end of a long day enjoying a glass of wine.  Along the way, there were several men who were interested in her and the reader gets the story of how each of these relationships progressed.

This book is recommended for those who enjoy travel writing and those who enjoy reading about how it is possible to change one's life.  Wheeler's writing style is light and breezy and the reader closes the last page sure that their life would be enriched if they could count her among their friends.  An enjoyable read, Tout Sweet is a life lesson on how to transform a life that doesn't satisfy into one that makes each day a new adventure.

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