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Friday, 24 January 2014

Empty Shelf/Mad Reviewer Challenge #4 - "Instructions For Visitors" by Helen Stevenson

First off, I love books about France. I mean, this is only the second author I've read who has written about France (the first being Joanne Harris) but so far I've had a very good experience.

"Instructions For Visitors" is Stevenson's memoir of her life as an expat in a small town in Southern France, and in particular her love affair with a Frenchman called Luc. She develops good friendships with eccentric characters in the village, celebrating but also puzzled by her life in France compared to what life would look like back in England.

Stevenson really nails the "show, don't tell" rule of writing. She creates stunning imagery with delicious phrases: "Down on the beach the endless tiny lapping movement movement of the sea mills them to yellow salt, mingled with stale crustaceans, the nail clippings of the ocean bed. The sun has a simple journey to make each day, rising from a sea and setting in an ocean." On every page I felt like she was guiding me round the village, driving me in the car up to Luc's farm, inviting me into her new and strange friendships. It was such an easy and relaxing novel to enjoy, though not without its share of substance, particularly related to the complexities of human relationships.

There are books that you cannot go to sleep without finishing. And there are books which you can immerse yourself in but it's easy enough to put down and pick up the next day without feeling tense in between because you need to find out what happened. This is the latter. I was absorbed in every page but I could wait to find out more, which, in terms of sleep, was probably better!

Overally, a thoroughly enjoyable novel, and one which I would highly recommend to someone who is looking for an easy but absorbing read.

Until next time!

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