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The beguiling, funny and frank story of a young Englishwoma; 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.
Publisher and industry reviews
UK Kirkus review
'If you find your place you should never actually live in it, never make it your home. In the same way never live with the man you think you cannot live without....' So a friend warns the nameless heroine of this novel - as it turns out, far too late. Escaping from an unsuccessful marriage via a small southwestern French village on the Spanish border, the young Englishwoman has already encountered - and fallen for - her place and the man. Living with them both, she is caught up in their timelessness, their parochialism and their strange seductive difference from all that she has known before. Part travelogue, part love-story and part anthropological treatise, Instructions for Visitors beguiles the reader with its changes of pace and tone. At one moment a lyrical evocation of dead heat and cicadas and blazing skies, it will turn in an instant to high comedy with the story of the Le Pen-ist mayor and the Johnny Hallyday concert, before sliding away to a neat series of portraits of the peculiar characters that make up the petit bourgeoisie of the village. There is the 'fake insincerity' of Gigi, the boutique-owner, who clothes the girlfriends of past lovers; the dancer Marie-Lou, who lives with a man half her height and twice her age and only sees her daughter once a week in her ballet class; Stefan, the highly competitive Maoist, who shows solidarity with the unemployed by not working himself, and who has 'an inflated sense of how much people want him - women and the police in particular'. Above all, there is her relationship with Luc - part artist, part dentist, part horseman, and wholly attractive. As indefinable as the village, as alluring and as entrenched, he is a man who is both troubling and difficult to live with, yet equally troubling and difficult to leave. (Kirkus UK)
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