Friday, August 26, 2011

Tout Sweet: Review in Progress

Tout Sweet: Hanging Up My High Heels for a New Life in France, by Karen Wheeler, has a review deadline! You all know how bad teachers are with deadlines -- or at least this one is -- so I'm reviewing Tout Sweet in progress. I started it a few days ago, and while I've had limited time, I do find that when I sit down with this memoir, I indulge in big chunks of it. It shouldn't be more than a day or so before I finish it completely, but I feel totally comfortable jumping in at this point to gush.

Karen Wheeler writes about her life as a fashion editor in London and her decision to chuck her comfy flat, reliable plumbing, and easily accessible supply of new shoes in favor of a fixer-upper home in a small French town.

It was inevitable that I thought about those other "drop your life and move somewhere exotic" books when I accepted this one for review. It may work in Wheeler's favor here, but I have not read Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun or Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. I've seen the movies, but I have not experienced the intimacy of their writing. In the early pages I wasn't so sure I'd like this book, but once I passed the first chapter or two and  really got acquainted with Karen Wheeler, I like her a great deal, and her story makes me smile.

In the process of renovating her home enough to set up house in at least one room, she decides to camp out nearby in an actual campground but soon finds herself rained upon, uncomfortable, surrounded by throngs of loud, scantily clad triathletes, and served a dinner of cold vegetarian cuisine. While the tent is quite fashionable (sent from a PR person in her London fashion days), camping itself is not quite as fashionable as she'd imagined.

Her house is dirt cheap --and there's a good reason owing to the fact that it's missing a kitchen floor, needs an entirely new bathroom, painting, rewiring, and lots of tender loving care. In the process of overhauling her space, Wheeler makes a bevvy of new friends in her new hometown including a crunchy couple who run the Liberty Bookstore, a down-on-his-luck divorcee with a spending problem and a homicidal son, a clingy Frenchman intent on making Wheeler his next wife, some charming and quite normal, helpful French neighbors, and a host of nutty and eccentric expats.

I love this book so far! It's a nice counterpoint to Tolstoy and the Purple Chair since that one was quite emotional, and this one is much more light-hearted and fun. Recommended? Absolutely! I'll weigh in with my final thoughts early next week, but if it keeps up at this pace, it will definitely earn a rating of Snuggle.

Pub. Date: August 1, 2011
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN-10: 1402261187
Source: Sourcebooks


  1. This does sound like a book I could relate to.

  2. I thought of you when I was reading it! I have every intention of revisiting some of your posts about France, too! :)

  3. I love the sound of this one. I always think we can reinvent ourselves and our lives and it sounds like this author found a way to do it. Thanks for posting about this one. I haven't heard anything about it anywhere!

  4. this one sounds good to me as well :)

  5. I hope you get better soon

  6. Kathleen, this author certainly did that. It was a fun book with really nice writing. I can't complain about a combo like that!

  7. Patti, it's a mood lifter which I know I needed!

    Thanks a bunch, eclecticreader!

  8. Glad you enjoyed this one! I did, too, though it didn't really bowl me over; I think I was definitely comparing it too heavily to the other travel works you mention, especially Under The Tuscan Sun. I just felt like... I'd read it all before, you know? Though I did appreciate Wheeler's journey!

  9. I do like the sound of this one, although I have read Eat Pray Love and I own Under the Tuscan Sun. Still, I like this kind of thing a lot. Have you read Without Reservations by Alice Steinbach? It was another beautifully-written travel memoir.

  10. I'd rather live in one unfinished room than camp!

    I love books like this, but they always make me wish for a different life in an exotic locale. (exotic defined as anywhere but the US)


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