Thank you, Claire McAlpine

Claire McAlpine has been an extraordinary book reviewer, in both French and English, on her blog, Word by Word, for many years. A multi-talented woman who is also a writer and an expert in the practise of Aromatherapy, Massage, and Anatomy/Physiology from the perspectives of both Eastern medicine and healing and Western. You can find out more about Flairesse by clicking here.

It’s always a lovely surprise to discover an unexpected review and I thank Claire for this lovely post on her blog, which for me was like opening a door and finding a room full of your favourite people yelling “Surprise!” ~ with confetti and champagne!

Merci mille fois!

MAY 21, 2019

Drawing Lessons by Patricia Sands

Seven years ago I read The Bridge Club by Patricia Sands, which I loved. Her ability to immerse the reader into the emotional lives of her characters is thoroughly engaging and insightful and the stories of those women characters and the event that brings them all together to share parts of their history together has long stayed with me.

Her latest novel, Drawing Lessons offers something a little different, in that this time the main character, 62 year old Arianna, leaves her Toronto home, family and troubles behind, somewhat reluctantly, but with the blessings and encouragement of those she’s left behind, to try and heal a little from the heartbreak of what she has left behind her.

It is an interesting and provocative premise. Her husband has been diagnosed with a debilitating form of dementia and her family have encouraged her to go on a two week artist’s retreat just outside Arles, the same countryside and landscape that inspired Van Gogh to produce over 300 works of art in the frenzied sixteen months he spent there, until driven out by the locals.

“In his letters to his brother Theo, he said drawing helped him combat his depression. He knew, as we do, that working en plein air, we are able to capture light and images more quickly and from that create our interpretation.”

Arianna hasn’t painted for a long time and is wracked by guilt at leaving. Slowly she will find her way, through the surroundings and with the eclectic band of artists that have come together to reaquaint with their inner muse. And then there is the strange allure of the man from the Carmargue.

The beautiful cover art couldn’t be more appropriate to today, it being May and everywhere you go at the moment, the poppies are in full bloom.

Living in this area and knowing how much the author loves the south of France and how much of her writing is informed by her own experiences of living a few months of every year here, I wasn’t surprised to feel how immersed in the area this book made me feel. She really does capture something of the essence of being in this region of Provence, in the landscape and the town of Arles, adding something of the fantasy of a mysterious artist, horseman, the romance element. Not to mention the markets and the collection and preparation of the food.

“Winding past olive groves, beside vineyards, and through fields dotted with poppies and other wildflowers, from time to time they’d comment on the pastoral beauty. They could imagine artists through the centuries setting up easels along the way.”

It’s a timely read if you’re interested in Van Gogh, as this year there was the film At Eternity’s Gate that came out and he is also the subject of the new show running from March 2019 – January 2020 at Carrieres de Lumières in Les Baux de Provence, a truly spectacular and original depiction of works of art, set to music, displayed on the inner walls of an old stone quarry.

If you haven’t been here and have an interest in open air painting, it’s a read that transports you to the Provençal landscape, ignites the imagination and all the senses and is likely to make you wish to indulge in a visit to the region yourself.

And although her upcoming tour is now sold out, if you want to imagine what it might be like to visit the area and visualise the area where this story takes place, check out the itinerary of The Memories Tour 2019, run by Patricia and co-host Deborah Bine, The Barefoot Blogger and visit Patricia’s blog, or sign up to her newsletter on France related writing news and tips on visiting the south of France and the culture.

About Patricia Sands

Family, writing and travel are my passions ... okay, and chocolate ... and I'm seldom without a camera. I write women's fiction and keep in touch with readers by a monthly newsletter that also has giveaways and contests. Come and join us by signing up on the right. See you there!


  1. Such a pleasure to read your books and immerse in the world of your imagination Patricia, one that isn’t too far from the reality of magical places and the lives of ordinary people who encounter common circumstances which can be overwhelming, but as your stories show, are always helped by things like, a sense of community, escaping the everyday, a trip to a beautiful place and the support of women friends and family!

    I look forward to more stories and adventures to come! Thank you for sharing my thoughts on reading space, Word by Word. I hope to see you on an upcoming visit to France!

  2. Patricia Sands says

    Claire, this was such a lovely surprise. I can’t thank you enough for finding time in your very busy reading schedule to include Drawing Lessons. In the process of researching the story, I spent many hours meeting with women who had experienced similar experiences as Arianna in the first part of the novel. Each one of these women impressed on me the importance of sharing that type of life-changing illness. In a meaningful coincidence, one woman in Florida had actually taken herself to a two-week artists’ retreat in the south of France, like Arianna, that changed her life.

I love hearing from you ~ thanks for stopping by


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