Talking Location With author Katharine Swartz – WHITEHAVEN and the LAKE DISTRICT
A House at the End of the Track
Intrigued by the endless accounts of English incomers `living the dream’ in France, Michelle Lawson set out to find out what it’s all about beneath that romantic veneer. Travelling around the Ariege Pyrenees she captured stories and observed the online interactions of a scattered English community, as well as frank conversations with new arrivals, old-timers and those packing up to return to England. We hear stories of meticulous preparation as well as buying on a whim, and from those who describe themselves as village celebrities, along with couples living in social isolation.
The book is a long way from the usual `we moved to France’ accounts. Instead it casts aside the romantic lens as the author travels among English settlers to hear their reasons for ending up in this remote corner of France. Readers will feel a mix of admiration, envy and sympathy, and perhaps even irritation with the incomers, as they sometimes contradict themselves in order to avoid the well-worn stereotype of the English abroad. The book is also a gentle reminder that such stereotypes present an unbalanced picture, and that if incomers do stick to some of their old ways, the reasons why might be understandable.
The author weaves her relationship with the landscape into the stories of the incomers in this wild and depopulated corner of the Pyrenees. Stories open up comment on local issues relating to conservation and re-wilding, as well as the continuing shadow of wartime events, in this much less well known part of France.
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