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Book Review Drawing Lessons by Patricia Sands a Journey in Provence

Lunch with a girlfriend is always a treat, but the chance to visit with Patricia Sands twice during her stay in Provence was a gift. On the first occasion, we met at Cuisine de Comptoir, in Arles, a down-to-earth restaurant that serves tartines (open face sandwiches) on pain Poilâne (a sourdough bread that traces its origins from a 1932 Parisian bakery).

Patrcia Sands Arles Fondation van Gogh

In 2016, Patricia Sands and her husband spent two weeks exploring Arles and the Bouches du Rhône area. She arrived at the restaurant with a smile as bright as the Provencal sky. Provence for Sands (like many of us) is her happy place, and historic Arles begs for exploring with a camera. The catalyst for their short stay in this city on the banks of the Rhône River was a home exchange request. However, there was something about Arles that had stimulated Patricia Sands’ creative writing juices.

Drawing Lessons Patricia Sands’ latest novel was published on October 1st.

Book Review Drawing Lessons

Please read to the bottom for details on a book giveaway.

Drawing Lessons although based in Provence is a departure from her best-selling “Love in Provence” trilogy and its characters. Set between Toronto, Canada and Arles, France the book is a love story intertwined with a tragic turn of events. Deep-rooted Greek family traditions and work ethic shaped Arianna’s personality as the novel’s main character. Her husband Ben slips into their family conventions like a glove working side-by-side with Arianna’s father in the kitchen. Over-time the couple assumes the responsibilities of the restaurant business and its associated struggles.

This book is a poignant portrait of a woman who must learn how to create a new life for herself.

Sixty-two-year-old Arianna arrives in the South of France for a two-week artists’ workshop full of anticipation but burdened by guilt. Back home in Toronto, she has been living with the devastating diagnosis of her husband’s dementia and the heartbreak of watching the man she’s loved for decades slip away before her eyes. What does her future hold without Ben? Before her is a blank canvas.

Encouraged by her family to take some time for herself, she has travelled to Arles to set up her easel in the same fields of poppies and sunflowers that inspired Van Gogh. Gradually, she rediscovers the inner artist she abandoned long ago. Drawing strength from the warm companionship and gentle wisdom of her fellow artists at the retreat—as well as the vitality of guest lecturer Jacques de Villeneuve, an artist and cowboy—Arianna searches her heart for permission to embrace the life in front of her, and like the sunflowers, once again face the light.

Arles Place de la Republiques Patricia Sands

In Drawing Lessons, Sands captures Arles in such a way you might think she spent years in the city reading its ever-changing painter’s light and the fascinating patinas on the old doors and shutters. Through the story’s progression, Sands dives deep into a disease that is a sad reality for many families. Sands selects art (painting) as the medium for Arianna to begin her healing process and the backdrop of the Camargue as a wild natural canvas.

Sands’ husband suggested the book’s title; a capture of art, learning and self-healing in just two words. The book’s cover features a poppy, which is a potent symbol for the story, representing the fragility of life but also the resilience of this delicate blossom. Patricia Sands agreed to answer a few questions related to Drawing Lessons.

Did you have the idea of writing a book based in Arles before your visit?

My editor at Lake Union Publishing asked for a stand-alone novel from me, so I wanted to set it in a different part of Provence from the Love in Provence series. Unexpectedly, as we were planning our 2016 trip to France, we received an enquiry about a home exchange in Arles for two weeks. We had visited Arles briefly a few times and knew we would love to spend more time there. Having the time to research and photograph that beautiful town and the intriguing Camargue, I knew I wanted to set a story there.

Arles Arena Patricia Sands

What “spoke” to you in Arles and convinced you that it should be the setting for Drawing Lessons?

I was already taken with Arles and getting to know the town intimately caused me to truly fall in love with the city. With all the influence from artists who had painted there, and notably van Gogh, it made sense for my protagonist to be an artist. While I was there the story developed quickly. The details kept falling into place.

Camargue Views Patricia Sands

What was the defining moment or place in the Camargue that convinced you to include this area in your book?

Once I began to research the Camargue and learned about the culture of the horses, bulls and gardians, there was a certain romantic element that I could not deny. It was fun to create the character of Jacques de Villeneuve, an artist and gardian. I was fortunate to be introduced to a man who was a passionate photographer and knew the Camargue well. He took me there and taught me things I would never have discovered on my own.

Camargue Style Patricia Sands

Why did you feel it was important to introduce dementia into the story?

I knew I wanted Arianna (the protagonist) to be facing a crisis in her life, giving her the reason to go to France. Dementia, in many different forms, is so prevalent today, I wanted to address it. It happened that I knew a woman who had faced a very similar situation to Arianna. She was very gracious about spending an afternoon with me and guiding me through her personal experience. That was a tremendous help to me developing my characters. I thank her in the acknowledgements.

How did you get into the artist’s brain?

I have a dear friend who is an artist, and we had many conversations. Then I also had the good fortune of advice from some other artists with whom I connected while I was writing the story. In fact, it’s funny how some things happen. I visited an artist’s studio in Florida and mentioned what I was writing to the woman. She said she would be happy to answer questions and that she would call me. When she did, I told her the basic premise of the story. I realised she was crying and she said, “You are telling my story.” Then she recounted how her husband had dementia for a few years before he died. Some period later when she had been struggling with how to move forward with her life, and she went to a two-week artists’ workshop in the Dordogne. It changed her life, just as my character’s life changed. I was amazed at the coincidence.

How long did it take to write the book once you got started?

It took about eight (8) months to complete the first draft and then there were a few months of editing and honing it to the final product.

Book Review Drawing Lessons Patricia Sands

Will there be a part two?

LOL ~ That’s what everyone asks. It’s not the plan, but the ending does lend itself to that possibility.

Book Giveaway Details!

Patricia Sands is generously offering to one signed copy and two e-books. What is your connection to art and where you live? Tell us where you live and a comment below for your chance to win. Winners will be selected on December 6, 2017 via random draw.

Bonne chance!

How to order your own copy

Click here for a hardcopy or Kindle edition.

Book Review Drawing Lessons

More on Patricia Sands and her connection to Provence:

Patricia Sands Love in Provence Series

Discover Provence with Author Patricia Sands

Patricia Sands Reveals the Promise of Provence

La maison de Line ~ Feel At Home in Saint-Remy-de-Provence

Book Review: I Promise You This

Is Provence Calling To You?

Learn more about the Camargue

5 Reasons to Visit the Camargue

The Camargue: Horses, Bulls, and Gardians of Provence

How to Spend a Day in the Camargue at Saintes Maries de la Mer

Saintes Maries de la Mer Abrivado

Image Credits: All photos (expect for the one outside Fondation Van Gogh) were provided by and published with the permission of Patricia Sands.

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Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

Carolyne Kauser-Abbott

With her camera and laptop close at hand, Carolyne has traded in her business suits for the world of freelance writing and blogging. Her first airplane ride was at six-months old, her introduction to the exciting world of travel.

While in Provence, Carolyne can be found hiking with friends, riding the hills around the Alpilles or tackling Mont Ventoux. Her attachment to the region resonates in Perfectly Provence this digital magazine that she launched in 2014. This website is an opportunity to explore the best of the Mediterranean lifestyle (food & wine, places to stay, expat stories, books on the region, travel tips, real estate tips and more), through our contributors' articles.

Carolyne writes a food and travel blog Ginger and Nutmeg. Carolyne’s freelance articles can be found in Global Living Magazine, Avenue Magazine and City Palate (Published Travel Articles). Carolyne also curates an e-commerce website for designer-made products of exceptional quality Atelier Boutiques.

20 Comments

  1. November 23, 2017 at 9:41 am — Reply

    Thank you for the interview and helping us better understand the creative process behind it–very interesting!
    I loved the book and admire how well Patricia captures the sights and sounds and smells of Provence. I can’t wait to get back!

    • CKAdmin
      November 23, 2017 at 2:35 pm — Reply

      Thanks Keith. I think we all feel the same way…can’t wait to get back to Provence.

  2. December 2, 2017 at 12:16 pm — Reply

    Love Patricia and I’ve been dying to read this one! My mother and I own a paint-and-sip studio in Camarillo, California where people come to paint a picture while drinking wine/beer/you-name-it. I am one of the instructors and I love teaching people who have never painted before to create a piece of art that they will love. It’s so inspiring to see how proud folks are of the beauty they create and very rewarding to watch them come alive in the studio. We have been embraced by our community and we have embraced right back. Art unites people of all backgrounds and we have been so blessed to be a part of it!

    • CKAdmin
      December 2, 2017 at 3:26 pm — Reply

      Hi Jessica: I love your paint and sip concept, it might improve my lack of skills. Thanks for reading the post on Patricia’s book. Your name has been entered into the draw. Good luck. Please sign-up for our newsletter, if you have not already done so. And feel free to share Perfectly Provence with friends.

  3. Marilyn Grable
    December 2, 2017 at 1:18 pm — Reply

    I live in Tx and would love to read Drawing Lessons. I read the Provirnce Series and loved them. Thank you for chance.

    • CKAdmin
      December 2, 2017 at 3:23 pm — Reply

      Hi Marilyn: Thank you for reading the Drawing Lessons book review. Your name has been entered into the draw. Bonne chance! Please sign-up for our weekly newsletter for great articles every week.

  4. Lesley McIntosh
    December 2, 2017 at 7:10 pm — Reply

    I live in Oamaru New Zealand so hoping I can enter . The town has become a tourist attraction as the Steampunk capital in NZ, also has saved a lot of Heritage buildings which all contain quirky arty business’s so an interesting wee town in the South island . Love a chance to read this book ,it sounds wonderful .

    • CKAdmin
      December 2, 2017 at 8:12 pm — Reply

      Hello Lesley of course you can be entered in the draw. Thank you for reading the book review and for your interest in Perfectly Provence. Please sign-up for our weekly newsletter and share with friends who might be interested.

  5. Cora Hannold
    December 2, 2017 at 11:46 pm — Reply

    Hello. I live in Buffalo, NY. I love going to the art gallery here, learning about the Pan-Am Expo that was here years ago, & taking pictures when I can. Thank you for the interview. This book sounds very interesting to me!

    • CKAdmin
      December 3, 2017 at 10:15 am — Reply

      Hello/Bonjour Cora: Thank you for reading this article and submitting a comment. Your name has been entered into the random draw – wishing you – Bonne Chance! We would be thrilled if you sign-up for our weekly newsletter and share with friends too. Happy Sunday!

      • Cora Hannold
        December 4, 2017 at 5:55 pm — Reply

        Hello. I signed up for the newsletter & shared this on Facebook. Have a wonderful day!!

        • CKAdmin
          December 4, 2017 at 7:09 pm — Reply

          Thank you! Merci!

  6. Kelley Blair
    December 3, 2017 at 8:07 am — Reply

    I live in a small rural town in Ohio. Washington Court House. We do not have an art museum close to us. I have many family members who are artistic. I have their pieces on display in my home.

    • CKAdmin
      December 3, 2017 at 10:13 am — Reply

      Hello Kelley: thank you for reading about Patricia Sands’ latest release “Drawing Lessons” is about art, love and of course Provence. Your name has been entered into the random draw – wishing you good luck! Please sign-up for our weekly newsletter and feel free to share with friends.

  7. Sonnetta Jones
    December 3, 2017 at 1:50 pm — Reply

    I am just getting into adult coloring. My association with art is that I am not an artist but I can appreciate it. I love taking pictures. My hope is that one day it will adorn my home.

    • CKAdmin
      December 3, 2017 at 2:07 pm — Reply

      Hello Sonnetta: Thank you for commenting, your name is now entered in the random draw. If you are interested in Provence and artists from the region please sign-up for our weekly newsletter http://eepurl.com/bwOBND and as a bonus you will get a copy of our Christmas menu .

  8. Cheri Madison
    December 4, 2017 at 12:37 am — Reply

    Great interview! My connection to art is as a viewer, an appreciator. I live in Las Vegas. Thanks for this opportunity!

    • CKAdmin
      December 4, 2017 at 8:40 am — Reply

      Hello Cheri: Thanks for reading the “Drawing Lessons” book review. Your name has been entered in the random draw. If you are interested please sign-up for our weekly newsletters http://eepurl.com/bwOBND and as a bonus you will get our holiday menu for December.

  9. Carla Suto
    December 5, 2017 at 9:26 am — Reply

    I live in Birmingham, AL. I am not an artist, but I love original art. Lucky for me, there are many original art galleries in my immediate. We have many talented artists living in the region. Would love to read Drawing Lessons. It’s high on my to-be-read list. Enjoyed the interview with Patricia! Signing up for your newsletter now. Thanks!

    • CKAdmin
      December 5, 2017 at 10:29 am — Reply

      Hello Carla: Thank you for taking the time to read this “Drawing Lessons” book review, and send a comment. Your name has been entered into the random draw for Patricia’s book. Once you sign-up for the newsletter you should receive a free copy of our Holiday menu curated by David @Cocoa&Lavender

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