When living abroad, there are two rules to be followed: 1—If you are lucky enough to find a place you belong, you should never actually live there. And 2—Never live with a man you think you could never live without.
But then, what fun would that be?
In this funny, forthright, and charming memoir, Helen Stevenson chronicles her experiences as a young British expatriate living in the countryside of France. With emotional depth and lyrical sensitivity, Stevenson introduces readers to the myriad residents of the quaint hamlet known only as "le village." There's Stefan, the Maoist tennis buff, who has his own unique way of showing empathy for the masses; Gigi, the chic Parisian who uses her boutique to dress her ex-lovers' girlfriends; and Luc, the cowboy painter and part-time dentist, who, overcoming his aversion to blondes, becomes enamored of the Englishwoman who has been warmly embraced by the rural community. But her troubled love affair with this local lothario comes to represent the poignant truth: she is still, somehow, an outsider. Luc reminds her: "Le village, c'est moi," and she can never say the same.
Evoking the languid, sensual essence of Mediterranean France, Instructions for Visitors is a very personal revelation of the wonders and the difficulties of relocating one's home—and one's heart.
Helen Stevenson grew up in South Yorkshire and studied modern languages at Somerville College, Oxford. She is a translator and the author of three novels, Pierrot Lunaire, Windfall and Mad Elaine. Since taking up full-time writing, she regularly reviews for the Independent. She now lives in London.