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Description - Life in a Postcard by Rosemary Bailey

'I wake to the sun striking gold on a stone wall. If I lean out of the window I can see Mount Canigou newly iced with snow. It is wonderful to live in a building with windows all around, to see both sunrise and sunset, to be constantly aware of the passage of the sun and moon.' In 1988, Rosemary Bailey and her husband were travelling in the French Pyrenees when they fell in love with, and subsequently bought, a ruined medieval monastery, surrounded by peach orchards and snow-capped peaks. Traces of the monks were everywhere, in the frescoed 13th century chapel, the buried crypt, the stone arches of the cloister. For the next few years the couple visited Corbiac whenever they could, until in 1997, they took the plunge and moved from central London to rural France with their six-year-old son. Entirely reliant on their earnings as freelance writers, they put their Apple Macs in the room with the fewest leaks and sent Theo to the village school. With vision and determination they have restored the monastery to its former glory, testing their relationship and resolve to the limit, and finding unexpected inspiration in the place. Life in a Postcard is not just Rosemary Bailey's enthralling account of the challenges of life in a small mountain community, but also a celebration of the rugged beauty of French Catalonia, the pleasures of Catalan cooking, and an exploration of an alternative, often magical world.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780553813418
ISBN-10: 0553813412
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 128mm x 21mm)
Pages: 336
Imprint: Bantam Books (Transworld Publishers a division of the Random House Group)
Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
Publish Date: 1-Apr-2002
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - Life in a Postcard by Rosemary Bailey

UK Kirkus Review » Many people have fled the grey weather of northern Europe for the benign sunshine of the south, and most of them (it sometimes seems) have written books about their adventures - of varying quality and interest. This is one of the best. The author is a professional journalist, eloquent, enthusiastic, but also very honest about the downside of such ventures. Rosemary Bailey had always dreamt of living in France, and she and her partner Miles fell in love with a derelict monastery in the Pyrenees surrounded by peach orchards, which needed a vast and expensive amount of reconstruction. A great deal of the book is, naturally, concerned with the agonising move from London with everything but the kitchen stove packed in the car; and with the actual work of restoration. One section is devoted to the history of the monastery, and the lives and work of the monks who built it, but much else is about today's people, including their now-distant families. Rosemary has to cope with the birth of a son and the death of a brother, both sensitively described. The descriptions of food - everything fresh and seasonal - have the reader drooling. The people of the village and surrounding hills were as varied as the cuisine, but for the most part kind, helpful and welcoming. And behind it all are the mountains, the weather, which is not always hot and sunny, the changing light of the sky, the rainbows and the clouds. Life is hard, but rewarding. At the end of the book Rosemary and Miles are still there - but will they be there for ever? To Rosemary that is irrelevant. The place is fixed in her bones and will always be part of her wherever she is. Don't miss this inspired account of a great adventure which against all odds finally worked out. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Travel writer Bailey vividly describes moving her family from England to the French Pyrenees. Early in this story, as the author tells of fixing up her newly purchased, 16th-century monastery with ochre lime mortar and terracotta tiles, readers may dread the prospect of yet another winsome tale of a delicious rural hideaway discovered by a vacationing couple and renovated by a force of colorful local artisans into the perfect bijou residence. But anyone who read Bailey's account of her brother's death (Scarlet Ribbons: A Priest with AIDS, 1998) will know there's no danger of sentimentality. She fully delves into the act of living in a decrepit monastery. As she and her husband chip away at plaster in an effort to expose the original design, she tries to imagine what it was like to live there as a member of the brotherhood of Servites ("an Italian order dedicated to the sorrow of the Virgin Mary") or as the hermit who kept the candles burning for the dead and rang the bells to scare away thunderstorms and witches. She becomes familiar with the local peach farmers (squabbling with some of them) and with the nouveaux paysans, an international band of slow-living, artful people who live in the hills of the region. She contends with the everyday aggravations-rampant brambles, rats in the attic, her newly developed hay fever-along with the everyday pleasures: her son's new school, Catalan food, the experience of living in a new place, which keeps her alert to everything from changes in the seasonal light to learning the common courtesies. All this while she has to work to pay the bills and ensure the well-being of her son, whom she feels guilty about having so rudely uprooted. Very human in its scale, concerns, and aspirations: the kind of story that could light a fire under a reader's dream of flight to the warm south. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Rosemary Bailey

Rosemary Bailey has written two further books about the Pyrenees. The Man who Married a Mountain (Bantam Books 2005) followed the romantic 19th century mountaineer. Sir Henry Russell-Killough, in his quest for the sublime. Her most recent book, Love and War in the Pyrenees, (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2008) is an investigation of the Second World War, combining her own travels with contemporary interviews, documents andletters, described by the Jewish Chronicle as, 'a quiet triumph of historical reconstruction'. She is a fellow of the Royal Literary Fund and teaches writing for the Arvon Writers' Foundation and runs her own writers' retreats in the Pyrenees.

Books By Rosemary Bailey

Back Roads France by Rosemary Bailey
Paperback / softback, March 2016
Love and War in the Pyrenees by Rosemary Bailey
Paperback, February 2009