Set in the beautiful country of France, The Promise of Provence by Patricia Sands tells the story of Katherine Price, a middle aged woman, who experienced multiple losses at different times of her life. The loss of what was once a happy and content married life, her loving and very supportive mother, and her wonderful job pushed her to find her inner strength and independence. This travel book focuses on how she will accept and come to terms with these challenges, how she will move on from them, and how she learns to rebuild her life and her future after travelling to France.
I found this book on Book Club Reading List. This amazing novel is not your ordinary love story or travel novel. It’s a little bit of both intertwined with how the main character, Katherine, faces the great challenges in her life. Her sudden decisions to accept home exchange offers in Provence and Antibes, France made her truly come to terms with herself and that is when she really understood her mother’s words, “Each day is a gift” and “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”
I was sincerely touched by how the author made various emotions in this novel come to life. Though I haven’t experienced what the main character had – and I wish I won’t ever have to – I felt her pain, loss, desperation, and grief. There are other stories discussed throughout the novel – and having read a bunch of mystery novels, I kept an eye on these other subplots thinking they have something to do with Katherine’s story. Later on, I realized these were part of the bigger plot to show the readers how the main character gradually changes, grows and becomes more independent.
I also felt how excited Katherine was after impulsively deciding to go to Provence and Antibes. It truly amazes me – until now, even after experiencing the same situations in my life – that those impulsive decisions we make somehow turn out to be huge turning points in our lives.
The intricate and beautiful descriptions of these cities that the author included in the novel would make one truly want to visit them and discover what self-realizations they could make. These descriptions were not included just for the sake of describing where the main character is. They were there to help the readers understand how such cities and sceneries helped Katherine heal from her pain, deal with the current challenges in her life, and dream again.
Here’s one scene where a vacation in Provence was a huge turning point in Katherine’s life:“In front of her was a postcard scene from Provence in June. An enormous field of golden sunflowers glistened with an intensity that was hard to believe, as if someone had plastered a Visit Provence poster smack in her face. To one side was the classic mas, with its outbuildings, the shades of the yellow-gray limestone farm structures softened by the mid-afternoon sun. Traditional weathered blue shutters on the south facing windows and doors were flung open on this fine day.”
And here is how she responded:
“Katherine leaned against the hood of the Citroën letting the reality sink in. Not simply the scenery but the truth of it all: she was in France, of her own doing, by herself. The ‘by herself’ part at this moment felt a bit raw. For a moment she felt as if she were on a precipice, unsure of what was coming next in her life. But it wasn’t danger or fear that she was experiencing. Rather there was a sense of excitement and an urge to quickly proceed to see what lay ahead.
I’ll deal with being alone. I can do it. This adventure is full on, she thought as she settled back into the car. Pulling off the grassy shoulder, she grinned, thinking, I can’t wait to see what happens farther down the road – in more ways than one. Then she laughed out loud.”
In addition, I particularly liked the following passage because it made me feel like I was right there in the village market of Provence:“Walking a couple of minutes down a winding, cobbled lane, Katherine’s face lit up as they rounded the corner and entered the village square that was transformed into the twice-weekly market. Stalls of beautifully organized fruits, vegetables, herbs, and olives intermingled with those selling flowers, cheese, and meats. At the far end, she could see clothing and linens hanging and couldn’t wait to discover what else.”
“As they passed the stalls, Katherine was reminded of how artistically everything was presented. It was the French way. Nothing was simple helter skelter on the stands but rather set out in a way that invited one to browse. Some vendors still used worn wicker baskets that took on richer tones as they aged and the herb and spice display was nothing short of a prize-winning photo opportunity. The variety and mix of c[o]lors caught the eye and didn’t let go. Exotic aromas and scents filled the air.”
I specifically love how the author throws different obstacles into the main character’s life. Just when she thought she had overcome one hurdle and was finally moving on, another challenge presents itself. Even after Katherine had finally accepted living and growing old on her own and that all she needs are her friends and family, an out of the blue fling with a foreign friend opens another door of opportunity that she had unknowingly forced to close: the possibility of finding love again.Overall, the author did a great job of how a middle aged woman can grow and mature into an independent and stronger individual. However, I must say that there are some parts in the novel that could be improved. Like how Nick, a local from Antibes who was Katherine’s fling, disappeared from the story. After playing an important role in Kat’s life, he just suddenly vanishes. It left me with an incomplete feeling.
For this travel book review, I give this novel a rating of five beach umbrellas for touching all possible emotional conditions any individual may experience in life: grief over a family loss, anger over a failed marriage, happiness at finding and accepting one’s self, and the sweetness of that first true love are among many others.
I highly recommend this travel novel for women who are at a loss on how to deal with their current challenges and looking for a push for them to move on and start rebuilding their lives. This is not only a good read when lounging around the beach. This is also the perfect travel guide book to bring when visiting France! The different cities exceptionally described in the novel provide you with a long list of activities and places to visit when vacationing in France!
About the Author
Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, Canada, when she isn’t somewhere else. An admitted travel fanatic, she can pack a bag in a flash and be ready to go anywhere … particularly the south of France. With a focus on women’s issues and ageing, her stories celebrate the feminine spirit and the power of friendship. Encouraging women of all ages to stare down the fear factor and embrace change,she has heard from readersages 20 to 83.
Her award-winning debut novel The Bridge Club was published in 2010.
Her second novel, The Promise of Provence is an Amazon Hot New Release as of April 2013.
She has been asked by a women’s travel company to lead a 10-day tour to Nice and Provence in June 2014. The details of the tour can be found here. Pop in to visit her at her websites: