I sniggered, I cackled and my belly ached as I travelled through the adventures in France. What a treat! You must, must, must ‘(expletive deleted)’ read this book about following a dream: remember ‘what the heart wants, the heart wants’.
A relationship will thrive if you are destined to follow an impulsive dream together; but you must be able to laugh with so much gusto that you ‘fear for your trousers’. The dream of life in France is contrasted with the reality. This writer is a witty wordsmith who delivers a punchline like an artful comedian. I found myself laughing so much that my husband wanted to understand what was so funny, but I couldn’t articulate it without reading sections aloud. Indeed, I can echo the author’s words that ‘I have been crying with laughter and sniggering – Himself was not amused’.
Patricia Feinberg Stoner has a unique flair for writing comedy and you will be drunk with laughter. She will make you laugh at stories involving: ironing boards, party planning, trips to the second-hand shops, renovation and every day incidents. Les Dawson, Dawson’s poodle and Mighty Mouse feature in the escapades. If you are confused then you will have to learn the ‘gallic shrug’ and say ‘alors’.
You cannot ‘loiter politely’ or ‘cough Englishly’ in France; it’s not even sufficient to speak French. The narrative shows you that ‘if you want to integrate, you have to do it at the locals’ pace.’ You will learn subtleties of why the French mock the English and why we laugh at the French. Mais oui, we have so much in common as we like to eat drink and laugh. It’s not that simple! It was pure genius to invite the locals for an English breakfast and afternoon tea; fight traditions with more traditions and vive la difference. One must accept that the British will never know what time bonjour becomes bonsoir. One must rejoice in the fact that ‘in France, you spend a lot of time eating’.
Patricia’s witty observations will instruct you in French way of life. However, it is refreshing to view British culture through French eyes and laugh at our own idiosyncrasies. Despite the culture gap, Herself and Himself charmed the locals. In turn, you will also be charmed by: Henri, Loony Tunes, P’tit Gui and a comedy of wonderful people. However, the most endearing characters in the book are Patricia, Himself and, Purdey, the dog. Wouldn’t it be great fun to invite Patricia and Himself to a dinner party? I dare you to ask Patricia if Henri almost made her blush. Perhaps, Himself would agree to partake in a spot of demolition after coffee.
I can’t tell you how or when Patricia’s wonderful turn of phrase will make you chuckle. I can’t tell you about all the hilarious events that will make you rush to read more. I can tell you that there may not be a cure for the hangover that the laughter will cause.
Read At Home in the Pays d’Oc if you want to move to France: read it if you don’t want to move to France – just read it for the ‘(expletive deleted)’ hell of it. And let’s thank Jean-Jacques for finding the house, with a terrace, and ensuring that it wasn’t time ‘to cry finie la comédie’.
As I soon as I opened the book, I was ‘passing through luscious green vineyards in the shadow of the pine clad Vosges mountains and among the gurgling rivers and streams’. On reaching the destination, it was time to open a bottle of chilled pinot blanc and savour the story.
The novel can boast a vineyard, a dilapidated chateau, glorious food and all the ingredients of a delicious romance – something to make you tingle. Fran leaves her dominating, cheating fiancé and finds my ideal job in a vineyard, but she does not know that it is owned by, Didier, a former lover. Besides the dream job, Fran is to live in a ‘heavenly’ fairy-tale cottage. Have I tempted you to read yet? As Fran says, ‘thank goodness for fate’ and I say let’s drink to the reassuring destiny of a romantic novel. But do all the roads lead to happiness?
Didier is a ‘gorgeous’, warm-hearted and intelligent man and Fran is also intelligent confident and ‘beguiling’. They are thrown together again by circumstances but can the fairy-tale last forever? Didier is a dedicated father and his daughter, Chloe, is his priority. Chloe is brought to life beautifully throughout the story; the reader can delight in the simple pleasures of a child’s world.
Didier is passionate about the vineyard and cooking so let’s hope that his passionate nature bodes well for this romantic novel. The story will set your ‘heart racing’ as the story unfolds but the harmony may be broken when there are so many others to consider? Will the chateau cast its magic spell on the inhabitants of the estate, or will the villains return to torment their dreams? Is the prince charming too good to be true? All will be revealed in the novel as it winds its way towards autumn and the grape harvest. The author will guide you through her narrative with her warm, inviting style.
The novel presents some interesting facts about the winemaking process and the wine-tasting. However, I wanted to taste the wine and get involved in the harvest. I can guarantee that you will want to reach for a good bottle of Alsace wine, some quiche, peach tartes and ponder second chances. You will also taste delicious words such as: pinot blancs, Gewurztraminers, Flammekueche and Kugelhopf sponge.
Is it time for you to take a chateau, a vineyard and add the magic of France. Perhaps you will pack a romantic picnic but you ‘certainment’ won’t be disappointed if you want to let contentment dominate your senses and comfort your soul.
Patricia Feinberg Stoner is presenting an extract of her award winning book. ‘At Home in the Pays d’Oc’ is the funniest book I have read this year: I am still recounting her anecdotes at dinner parties. Forget ‘Victoria’, someone should serialise this book for the Sunday night audience – we all need a laugh!
It is an honour to hand over to, the wordsmith, Patricia Feinberg Stoner.
I’m so pleased to be able to share At Home In the Pays d’Oc with you. In this extract I’ve chosen the moment when, after a long search, my husband and I first set eyes on what was to become our home in the Languedoc. It’s my abiding memory, even after 30 years, and I still feel the lift of excitement I felt that day. I was sure then, and I am sure now, that when I first walked into the dusty, red-flagged kitchen, the house opened one eye and said ‘Well, you took your time getting here.’
Why read At Home in the Pays d’Oc? Look at the state of the world! If we are all going to hell in a handbag, then wouldn’t it be nice to have something light-hearted to offset the doom and gloom? I hope this book will encourage everyone to follow their dream and see where it takes them.
I hope you enjoy this tale of our adventures, and that the book brings you something of the sunshine and fun and laughter that our sojourn in the Languedoc brought to us.
With all good wishes
Patricia Feinberg Stoner.
Jean-Jacques, the estate agent, turned right, drove up a narrow street between ancient houses, turned the corner and stopped. We got out of the car. On the corner of the church square and a road so narrow you could have spanned it with outstretched arms, stood the ugliest house I had ever seen.
It was clearly old, very old. It was clearly cobbled together out of what had been two houses. It rose slab-fronted from the street, acres of decaying, yellowish crépis (plaster) bisected by sundry phone and electricity cables. A ridiculous stone staircase flanked by a stunted tree rose ungracefully to a pocket-handkerchief front terrace littered with debris and encrusted with cat droppings.
I stopped dead in my tracks. ‘Ohmigawd’ thought Himself to himself (as he told me later), ‘we’ve just bought a house.’
Why? There were prettier houses. There were certainly prettier villages – Morbignan in those days was, to put it politely, a little run-down. What made me fall so immediately, so irrevocably in love with this house in this village?
Did I see possibilities in the tree? In years to come it would grow so high that it could be seen on Google Earth.
Was I enchanted by the steps, crumbling and lichen-dappled though they were? Did I foresee their future when, cleaned and decorated with pots of scarlet geraniums, they would prompt visitors to exclaim ‘What a lovely house!’?
Who can tell? All I can say is, the heart wants what the heart wants.
More about this ‘tale of accidental expatriates’…
This is the story of how a small brown and white spaniel turned the lives of two English holidaymakers upside down.
Patricia and her husband Patrick are spending the summer in their holiday home in the Languedoc village of Morbignan la Crèbe. One hot Friday afternoon Patrick walks in with the little dog, thinking she is a stray. They have no intention of keeping her.
‘Just for tonight,’ says Patrick. ‘We will take her to the animal shelter tomorrow.’ It never happens. They spend the weekend getting to know and love the little creature, who looks at them appealingly with big brown eyes, and wags her absurd stump of a tail every time they speak to her.
On the Monday her owner turns up, alerted by the Mairie. They could have handed her over. Instead Patricia finds herself saying: ‘We like your dog, Monsieur. May we keep her?’
It is the start of what will be four years as Morbignanglais, as they settle into life as permanent residents of the village. “At Home in the Pays d’Oc” is about their lives in Morbignan, the neighbours who soon become friends, the parties and the vendanges and the battles with French bureaucracy.
It is the story of some of their bizarre and sometimes hilarious encounters: the Velcro bird, the builder in carpet slippers, the neighbour who cuts the phone wires, the clock that clacks, the elusive carpenter who really did have to go to a funeral.
‘At Home in the Pays d’Oc‘ has won a Five Star Book Award from One Stop Fiction. Here is a flavour of the other reviews:
Part memoir, part travel book, wittily written and engaging, At Home in the Pays d’Oc is so much more than ‘how to live in a foreign country’. Despite being penned anecdotally, it flows with the rhythm of a good novel. Ingenue Magazine
The author, Patricia, in this captivating book, takes the reader on a voyage of discovery, a celebration of the years she and her husband spent enjoying their French home. Susan Keefe, Living in France
What I most admire about the couple’s story is their attitude to life in another country. (While Many expats are the “Little Englanders,” the Stoners make a real attempt to integrate into the social system of their adopted village. Kathleen Lance, One Stop Fiction
The wonderfully witty author of At Home in the Pays d’Ocarrived on a perfect summer’s day. Purdey, HRH the Dog, also accompanied Patricia.
My esteemed guest admired the scones that I had baked for the occasion. Purdey was not amused so decided to take a nap. The scon / scohne debate lasted until Purdey awoke from her slumber in my favourite armchair.
Patricia had brought some pork pies as a tribute to my northern roots and a limerick to mock my obsession with handbags. The limerick below is now proudly displayed on my website. Apparently, Patricia is writing a book of limericks
Our Jessie’s bit of a wag:
She doesn’t think reading’s a drag.
Her authors, excited
To be so invited
All send her their books for her bag.
Patricia hopes that ‘the Little book of Rude Limericks’ will be out in time for Christmas. Her illustrator has gone missing…
After much hilarity, tea and scones were abandoned for a good bottle of Picpoul de Pinet. It was a hoot to listen to Patricia’s anecdotes about her experiences and I could have listened to her all day. Finally, we managed to get back on track commence the interview.
Jessie: Summarise At Home in the Pays d’Oc in two sentences.
Patricia: A humorous memoir that is largely, but not entirely, based on fact. It’s the story of how my husband and I became expatriates in the south of France for four years – without really meaning to.
Jessie: Your book is probably the funniest book that I have ever read and everyone should read it. What do others say about your reviews. At first, Patricia was hesitant to share the reviews until I insisted.
‘Laugh-out-loud funny, always engaging, a great read.’ Ingénue Magazine
5.0 out of 5 stars. What a delicious book! Patricia’s telling of Himself – and Herself’s – life in the Pays d’Oc is so well written. Funny in places, poignant in others, and exasperating too sometimes, as they deal with their new life in southern France. A joy to read. Elfyn Morris, Amazon
‘Patricia writes with a warm engaging tone, great to read if you fancy an escape in the sunshine. A very enjoyable read – highly recommended!’ TJ Green, NZ book reviewer
Jessie: Read an extract from your book that will tempt a reader.
When I first met my husband, he announced casually, quite early on in the relationship, that he didn’t like France. ‘Well,’ I thought, ‘this will not do.’ I decided to change his ways.
Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing your book?
I felt a mixture of things. Relief, of course, at having finally finished it. But a little sadness too. I had been living with these stories for a decade: they started out life as a series of sketches for a French property magazine. Turning them into a book brought back some wonderful memories, and quite a bit of laughter. I had lots of stories left over, so I immediately started planning the next book.
Jessie: I do hope that you write a sequel.
Patricia: It was suggested I should write ‘At Home in West Sussex’, which is where I live now. After some initial excitement, I decided this was a non-starter. I have returned to France instead and am writing a collection of short stories provisionally called ‘Morbignan Tales’.
Jessie: Have the people in your book read your novel, and did they recognise themselves?
Patricia: My best friend recognised herself instantly when I called her ‘the acquisition queen’. Luckily, she saw the funny side. A lot of the people in the book are French, though, and I doubt if they will have read the book. Apart from my lunatic neighbour I think I have been kind about everyone: the book is written with a lot of affection. And I hope to goodness no-one will think it is patronising or condescending, as some other books about living in France can be.
Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why? This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.
Patricia: That’s a poser. Language barrier aside, I’d be happy if some of my neighbours from the village read it, and I hope it would make them laugh. In particular I’d like M. Alibert, who took a chance on us and let us have Purdey, to know she is well and happy and still with us at the ripe old age of 15. It would be quite nice, too, if the BBC came knocking…
Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?
Patricia: Look at the state of the world! If we are all going to hell in a handbag, then wouldn’t it be nice to have something light-hearted to offset the doom and gloom?
Jessie: What is the last sentence in your writer’s notebook?
Patricia: I have a thing called the Owl Book. I’ve had one since I started work on a local newspaper back in the dark ages – the first one just happened to have an owl on the cover and the name stuck. I write in everything that happens: thoughts, phrases that might come in useful, limericks and also memory-jogging stuff like groups I’ve joined and review copies I’ve sent out. The last note I made was ‘A Dog Called Useless’ which is a reminder to re-think the title of my next book…
Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an independent author?
Patricia: The fact that you can never, never stop promoting. There are some wonderful exceptions, such as Ingénue magazine which is immensely supportive, but on the whole it is extremely difficult to get publicity for an independently published book.
Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?
Patricia: Well, it’s a bit tongue in cheek, but when I first started work I as a journalist I had a wise old news editor who once looked at one of my more fanciful pieces and remarked ‘Never spoil a good story for the sake of a few hard facts.’ I interpret this as being true to the spirit of what happened, rather than the letter.
It was wonderful fun to interview Patricia. She has an instinctive dry sense of humour and is warm and engaging like the narrator in At Home in the Pays d’Oc.
Patricia is a words person: she loves reading, writing and dogs (and some people). She can be lazy, though: like a lot of writers she will do anything – even housework – to delay sitting down at the keyboard. She has a keen sense of the ridiculous and is prone to compose daft limericks at the drop of a hat.
I sincerely hope that the BBC will make a series out of the warm-hearted, funny and poignant book. Alternatively, Patricia should go on a theatre tour to perform her limericks, present anecdotes and engage with the audience.
I have been waiting for weeks to meet Leah. As soon as the book arrived, I made myself some strong coffee and lost myself in France.
As I opened the book, I could feel the ‘sheen on my skin where the sunshine streamed in through the window’. But the book isn’t just about the shimmering heat, a fast heart beat and copious amounts of rosé pamplemousse. It is a wonderfully witty book that isn’t ‘Just for the Holidays’ because the consequences of the holiday will last forever. This novel examines the fragility of the ‘protective shell’ surrounding teenagers that can shatter without their parents. In turn, Moorcroft also shows how adult are left vulnerable and exposed when relationships breakdown. However, you will still laugh all the way through novel and forget that you need to go to sleep – hence strong coffee needed. You will also crave some expensive chocolate.
Prior to reading this novel, I was unaware of the challenges facing Leah as I had focused on the trail of clues in the #PostcardsJFTH. One must admire Leah as she ‘rolls up her sleeves’, supports everyone and hopes that the ‘frost’ will thaw between her sister and brother-in-law. Leah’s ‘heart twists’ for the teenagers but also flutters when she feels the heat from a certain man. It is moving that Leah has an incredible capacity to empathise, putting the needs of others first. It is equally endearing that she removes the halo from time to time. Who wouldn’t want Leah, with her ‘sunny personality’ and compassion, as a sister?
The narrative is as fast paced as Leah’s Porsche, but one longs to find out if the romance will become a harmonious melody rather than a sporadic drum beat. Besides the events rolling on, there is a tremendous lyrical quality to the dialogue that drives you through the events. The humour sparkles throughout the interactions and difficult situations. I am in awe of the way in which Moorcroft combines humour with a more challenging and sensitive subject. Characters are built with precision as each word is selected with tender loving care: Moorcroft cares about her characters thus ensuring that the reader will also suffer from a ‘sore heart’ at times.
Read it and you will understand why Leah needs to get a massive ‘Do not disturb’ sign on her door.
A whole constellation of stars to be awarded to Sue Moorcroft for this funny, poignant yet heart-breaking read! Must go now and bake the quick pecan toffee pudding to console myself for having finished the book.
Carol Drinkwater’s The Forgotten Summer is safely stored in my handbag and can be enjoyed at any time, but a generous glass of Chateauneuf du Pape is a recommended companion.
I devoured Drinkwater’s memoirs and drank up her wisdom, and her novel, Forgotten Summer, did not disappoint me. Drinkwater wraps up her nuggets of wisdom, and powerful observations, in a beautifully crafted narrative.
This is so much more than the story of an English girl that fell in love with a Frenchman. Jane’s memories of her life, thirty years on, are the starting point for Jane’s exploration of another world that her husband inhabited.
Read the complete review of Forgotten Summer in My Reading.
Drinkwater books are like my old friends. I started this reading friendship with the Olive Farm books.
I escaped into the world of Apassionata immediately. I could feel the heat of the sun on my face as I ran away to the Mediterranean, with the narrator’s voice in my head. The descriptions are vivid, soothing and thoroughly necessary; they nourish the imagination and transport you.
Read the complete review of The Olive Farm in My Reading.