Thriller set around the mouth of the Saint Lawrence river – QUEBEC
Talking Location With author Sophie Claire – PROVENCE
23rd July 2022
#TalkingLocationWith…. Sophie Claire, author of An Escape to Provence.
Why My New Book is a Love Letter to Provence
When we talk about the South of France most people think of the Riviera and tourist hotspots like Nice and Cannes where millionaires have grand villas or expensive yachts and the sea sparkles like expensive jewels. It’s a beautiful coastline, there’s no denying it, but drive inland an hour or two and you’ll find a different side to Provence. A landscape of hills, dry forests and fields where vines, lavender and sunflowers grow, with ancient stone shepherd’s huts and hilltop villages.
It can be a harsh landscape, arid due to the dry climate, the ground parched in summer, but this creates a different kind of beauty. It’s a place of intense colours, perfumes and flavours. It’s a world away from Manchester, UK, where I live. Everything about the place stimulates the senses, and that’s why I love to write about it. But the main character in my latest book, An Escape To Provence, isn’t so keen.
An Escape To Provence is about Daisy Jackson, a cynical divorce lawyer, who unexpectedly inherits a ramshackle farmhouse in Provence and sets off for the French countryside to oversee renovations herself. But Gabriel Laforêt has other ideas. A local builder with ties to the property, Gabriel is determined to see Daisy off and preserve the characterful, charming farmhouse – which, but for a missing will, he knows is rightfully his.
When they meet, sparks fly. They’re opposites in almost every way, not least because she’s a city girl and out of her comfort zone in the quiet countryside. She can’t see the appeal of a place so remote and eerily quiet, without any of the conveniences of city living. But away from her work, she’s forced to slow down and Gabriel’s laidback attitude helps her stop and see what’s around her.
I loved watching her slow-burn love affair develop – not just with Gabriel, but with the setting. Life in a Provencal village is quiet, but there’s a strong sense of community. Traditions are respected – such as the travelling shepherds who move their flocks up to the hills (where it’s cooler) in summer, then back down in winter. Food is savoured, the senses are heightened. The intense heat forces you to slow down and live more mindfully.
As I wrote the book, I drew on memories of my childhood summers spent at my grandparents’ house (I’m half French) in the south of France, and I don’t deny there’s an element of nostalgia when I describe the big gatherings around delicious meals, joyous trips to the seaside, and dramatic thunderstorms. The setting intensified what was already a sensual and emotional story.
When it’s raining in Manchester (which it often is), the sun-soaked landscapes of Provence provide an escape for me, and there’s nothing I like more than to let my imagination carry me away to a place where the cicadas sing all summer, and the smell of lavender perfumes the warm air. I really hope this book will transport my readers in the same way.
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