My review today is for Tout Soul: The Pursuit of Happiness in Rural France , Karen Wheeler’s third book about her life in Poitou-Charentes, France. I really do recommend reading Tout Sweet: Hanging Up my High Heels for a New Life in France and Toute Allure: Falling in Love in Rural France , books one and two before this one. The first two books are full of Karen’s excitement and optimism of a new life in France and a new romance, where as book three (as the title suggests) is a soul baring book from a period in her French life when things go from bad to worse. Life, wherever you live, doesn’t always give you sunny courtyards and glasses of rosé wine and this book is an honest, but very readable account of a difficult time. Her relationship is not going well, she falls out of love with French village life and then her world is turned upside down by an accident involving a friend. To read this book without having read the others would not give you the whole picture.
This is a heart-wrenching and far more emotional read than the first two. However despite the somewhat subdued feel to this book, Karen is still able to bring alive the changing seasons of the Poitou-Charentes countryside, that I know and love so well, with her descriptions of her daily walks with Biff, her beloved doggy companion. Having Biff and his need for routine and care really gave meaning to her life during the dark times and his antics often made me smile. She captures perfectly the café culture and the important part it plays in French village life and the characters she writes about feel very real. She also has the ability to write about very personal situations with honesty, openness and without making the reader feel uncomfortable, but a box of tissues may come in handy.
It has been a privilege to share her life in France and I am very much looking forward to catching up with Karen’s life in book four Sweet Encore: A Road Trip from Paris to Portugal that will be published later this year.
You can read my review of Tout Sweet here, Toute Allure here, and my France et Moi interview with Karen here. Karen has also written a French inspired diet book The Marie-Antoinette Diet that I reviewed here and was lucky enough to hear her talk about here.
Tout Soul: The Pursuit of Happiness in Rural France is available in paperback and ebook format and links to Amazon can be found below.