The beguiling, funny and frank story of a young Englishwoman's love affair with a French village and a Frenchman.
If you are lucky enough to find your place, you should never actually live in it, never make it your home. And never live with the man you think you cannot live without.
Le Village is a small town at the southwestern-most tip of France. Here a young Englishwoman fell in love with France, the French and one Frenchman in particular.
In her seductive, lyrical and witty memoir Helen Stevenson writes about life in Le Village, not as an expat, but as someone adopted by her neighbours as one of their own. By Stefan, the Maoist tennis fanatic, who lives off his lover in solidarity with the unemployed; by Gigi, the chic Parisian who dresses her ex-lovers' girlfriends from the stock of her exquisite boutique; and by Luc, the crumpled cowboy painter and part-time dentist, who, overcoming an aversion to blondes, takes the Englishwoman up to his remote mas, shows her his paintings and
teaches her to ride.
Describing the colour and light of the landscape with lyrical intensity, and savouring the languid and sexy flavour of the Mediterranean lifestyle, Helen Stevenson lays bare a romantic but potentially disastrous love affair with the man 'who seems like the only man alive to me, the one with the halo round his head in a crowd, if I should ever see him in a crowd'. INSTRUCTIONS FOR VISITORS may start as an objective guide for tenants arriving at her village house, but it ends as a very personal revelation of how difficult it can be to transplant oneself into someone else's country, someone else's culture, someone else's heart.
“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.”
“Wonderfully evocative, with a plangent note of longing, this is one for those dreary February commutes to work.”
“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
“'Helen Stevenson has written a brilliant memoir about how it feels to fall in love not only with a place, but also with the man who embodies it'”
“'Seductive, vibrant and utterly candid'”
“'Lyrically evocative...a book worth reading'”
“'Her village attains a life beyong the stereotypies, a vividness that goes deeper than Gallic hauteur and great bread'”
Scotland on Sunday
“'If you've every wanted to pack it all in and head for the middle of nowhere read Helen Stevenson's captivating memoir...a fascinating insight into Mediterranean life, history and habits, as well as a very witty, moving account of the ups and downs of living and falling in love in a strange place'”
“'Begins as instructions for holidaying guests arriving at the author's house. But soons he is turning her novelist's eye on the town's characters...The result is as voyeuristically pleasurable as rooting through the owner's letters and photo albums in a rented cottage'”
The Sunday Times
“'Part memoir, part travelogue, part romance...Stevenson's prose is elegant, her descriptive powers provocative'”
“'What begins as a superior lyrical travel guide transforms into a tender love story and a very personal memoir of a disastrous affair'”
“'A startlingly original work'”
Harpers & Queen
“'Clever, gripping and elegantly written'”
Michele Roberts, Independent
“'Well-written, realistic and convincing...her observations and acute and often charming and funny...miles better than Peter Mayle'”
“'In Helen Stevenson's memoir of an ill-fated love affair...sex and gossip help pass the ime. There are affairs, but also histrionic jealousy, melodramatic bust-ups and any amount of unrequited lust...A plausible and sometimes affectionate portrayal of one slice of French life'”
Independent on Sunday
“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.”