Today’s book review is for a fabulous memoir that rang more than a little true for me personally.
Tout Sweet is the story of Karen Wheeler, a rather high-end fashion journalist in London, who decides to pack her entire life up and leave the city to move to a rural village in France and renovate an old farmhouse. The decision is sparked by two things – the devastating end of her latest relationship and an increasing sense of ennui and disillusionment with her fashion-girl life and its obsessive focus on accumulating things. As you would expect, the story runs the emotional gamut – it alternates between hysterical ex-patriot escapades and old house/contractor challenges, heartbreaking moments of loneliness, uplifting tidbits of self-realization and demonstrations of inner strength. It is, in short, a story of everyday life.
As Karen travels down her new, decidedly more casual and less Prada-full path, she comes to realize that wherever in the world you may go, you are still you there – which means you can’t run from your problems, dissatisfactions, or emotions, because they have a nasty tendency to follow you. As someone who has also walked away from city life and a fairly high-powered career and materialistic lifestyle, I cannot tell you how many times I found myself smiling or laughing as I realized how absolutely positively spot-on Wheeler’s words felt. She balances personal drama and emotions with descriptions, facts, and settings in a way that leaves you utterly involved in her life and yet still able to imagine your own self in her (oh-so-fabulous) shoes. And she does so in a way that keeps you as a reader engaged from start to finish.
It is easy to see how Wheeler achieved success in London and managed to maintain her career after her decision to walk away from the urban fashionista world and into the life of a country girl. Her writing is clear and concise yet descriptive, and crisp. The pacing is excellent – the story blends seamlessly from emotional highs to emotional lows (rather the way real life tends to) and Wheeler knows exactly when the reader needs a light-hearted moment or silly anecdote to keep the story from falling into self-pitying territory.
A former corporate attorney and government relations/health policy executive, Jill-Elizabeth walked away from that world (well, skipped actually) and toward a more literary life (equally challenging, but infinitely more enjoyable). If you enjoyed this review, please visit her at Jill-Elizabeth.com, the official home of All Things Jill-Elizabeth – that is, all of the teehees, musings, rants, book reviews, writing exercises, and witticisms of her burgeoning writing career.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Sourcebooks. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.