Book Review: "Tout Sweet" by Karen Wheeler



Ok, I'll be the first to admit it... I am a sucker for travel memoirs, especially when they are written by a woman who has been scorned and is now out to "find" herself.  If this is not your thing, feel free to skip this post, and if you think you might want to read Tout Sweet: Hanging Up My High Heels for a New Life in France (the book being reviewed) then maybe you should also skip this post as I am sure to reveal some spoilers.

At the age of 35, our heroine, Karen Wheeler is a successful British fashion editor... who has been brutally dumped.  As cliche as it all is (or has become to me anyways), she wonders how did she end up 35 and alone?  But here is why I'm addicted to these stories... because unlike myself, these girls get up and do something about it (it probably helps that they don't appear to be buckled down with credit card debt and they are always successful high powered career woman, whereas I am not).

So, Karen impulsively buys a French chateau in a small village in France, and she names it, Maison Coquelicot, "house of the wild poppy".  Karen takes a year to move from London to France after her purchase to get things in order and tie up loose ends.  During this year though she makes a lot of weekend visits, where we start to lean about some of the locals.

Upon actually moving to France she of course has a moment where she can't believe she's done this and can't believe that she doesn't even know the number to dial in case of emergency.  Here is where I think the book was awkward because we know Karen is British yet the book claims that she didn't know the French equivalent for 911 (but in England the emergency phone number is 999).  Since we already knew she was talking about emergency phone numbers I don't think they needed to change it for an American audience-- especially when Karen finds herself in a community full of British ex-pats in France and they definitely use their British slang and don't worry about translating that for the American version, so... anyways, I digress.

Karen faces trials and tribulations with the remodel of her fixer-upper (very Under the Tuscan Sun) and as she learns the ins and outs of all these characters that make up this little village and as she adjusts to being a country girl and not a fashionista in the big city.

The best part about this book is that Karen transforms her life, and even though the book ends and everything isn't exactly perfect, you get the feeling Karen is going to be ok and that good things are going to happen for her (it helps knowing that in England, two more books have already followed... one in which the whole point of the book is about Karen falling in love).  But it's nice to know that she wrote this first book and it was honest and hopeful.

I know it's crazy, but since it's been so cold and snowy and since I don't have a TV (or technically internet), I spent all of Sunday curled up with this book and it was delightful, and I already miss it!  I love when I read a book that when it ends I know I'll miss the characters, and the setting.

Christmas and New Year's oddly enough played a big role in this book for the two years that the book covered so it was kind of nice to read it on a snowy weekend.  Now I have to decide if I want to get on some website (hopefully not amazon) and order the next one, but the British covers are so ugly (yes, I just said that).  So I may hang in there a little longer to see if an American release date gets set... it's not like I can't find anything else to read in the meanwhile, right?