Escape to the French Farmhouse by Jo Thomas
Publisher: Transworld Digital/Corgi
Publishing Date: 7th April 2020
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Number of pages: 352
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Can she find her recipe for happiness?
Del and her husband Ollie moved to a beautiful village in Provence for a fresh start after years of infertility struggles. But six weeks after they arrive, they’re packing the removal van once more. As Del watches the van leave for England, she suddenly realises exactly what will make her happier…a new life in France – without Ollie.
Now alone, all Del has is a crumbling farmhouse, a mortgage to pay and a few lavender plants. What on earth is she going to do? Discovering an old recipe book at the market run by the rather attractive Fabian, Del starts to bake. But can her new-found passion really help her let go of the past and lead to true happiness?
A heart-warming tale about reclaiming your life, set amongst the lavender fields of Provence. Perfect escapism from the author of Late Summer in the Vineyard and The Honey Farm on the Hill.
“Escape to the French Farmhouse” begins with a kick when Della, our main character, decides that her marriage is actually over and, even though she has packed all the things and the removal van is already there, and her husband Ollie waits for her in the car, she’s not going back to the UK. So Del chooses to stay in France. Without Ollie but with Ralph, the dog she got from her husband after another failed IVF. On her own, Del quickly makes friends with some locals and to be able to pay the rent she starts to bake biscuits and cakes full of lavender from her own garden. Is she going to find her own happy end in this little French village?
It was a very feel – good, escapist story where everything happens as you want it to happen, in a good way – we all need this bit of sunshine in our lives and it is a perfect book when you need a bit of TLC.
The characters were lovely, though I’d love them to be a bit more rounded, as they were either verrry friendly and helpful or verrrry unfriendly and unhelpful. I adored Del and wanted to give her a standing ovation for realising what she wants from her life, for deciding to stay, for plucking up the courage – it’s for sure not easy to simply leave everything behind and stay in a new place, without a job and perspectives. And yet, she was able to take this opportunity, to face the challenge. She didn’t feel sorry for herself, but she rolled up her sleeves and immediately showed an initiative, grabbed every single aspect of French life and I cheered her on all the way. Integrating with the local community was a huge part of this book, showing how important it is to show your good faith, to get involved in the local life – and it’s true, I know it myself very well, having moved to a different country 15 years ago.
There is also a bunch of background characters who all bring so much to Del’s life and turn into her friends that she so much needed. The subplot with Del, Stephanie and Tomas was, even if sometimes too far – fetched, one of the most heart – warming things in this book, showing that where is trust there is also hope and possibility.
The descriptions of the food are, as always, exceptionally good, and I could feel myself put on weight only reading them – even though my ARC didn’t have the recipes that I’m sure are there in the finished copies, boo. Really, don’t read the book when you’re on diet or when you’re hungry, I can tell you from experience. However, it’s not only the food that is so vividly described. Jo Thomas has a way with words and she has also captured the scenery, the setting, the weekly market so evocatively, bringing this all to life and transporting me immediately into the characters’ world. And she truly couldn’t have chosen a better setting, capturing the atmosphere of this part of France, introducing us to French customs and people.
This time I missed a bit the depth that I’ve learnt to expect from Jo Thomas’s books. I had a feeling that the author didn’t explore the subplots in a way that she always does, and it felt so chopped – let’s take one thing, chop, another one, chop and tadah, here we are. Don’t get me wrong, pretty please, it was still full of Jo’s trademark warmth, humour, gorgeous setting and delicious food but this time it simply felt a bit too superficial for me, it missed the mark, it was sooo everything through rose – tinted glasses, and everything is solved so quickly but hey, I still truly, deeply enjoyed it, so there. No need to by so cynical, right, there are also happy ends.
And, as usual, the book is not only laugh, wine and food but there are also some sadder issues, that the author tackles with a lot of gentleness and delicately. Altogether, it is a typical Jo Thomas story, and let me tell, the author is a brilliant story – teller, her writing style is so chatty and friendly and you won’t feel the time passing by when reading the book. It’s a perfect read for a lazy afternoon, a book that is for sure going to leave you feeling warm and optimistic. Truly recommended!
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