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Pin a Book: The Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard

The Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard

Back to France this week, with Helen Pollard‘s The Little French Guesthouse. These guesthouses can be found all over France and they usually make a very idyllic vacation. And there’s wine! Check the book out on the map 🙂

How or why is the setting important to who your character is?

Helen PollardThese books are about someone hankering after a new life, and then finally taking the plunge and going for it. I know a lot of people dream of living in France, but there are difficulties as well as joys. The town in the books, Pierre-la-Fontaine, is imaginary, but I based it on real towns in the region – I wanted it to come across as a proper ‘working’ town, not just a tourist attraction. Even though many of the characters in the books are British ex-pats and effectively have their own community, they are all integrated into local life, too. Having said that, the books are about running a guesthouse, after all, so I needed the setting to be somewhere tourists want to visit! Where better than the Loire, with all those vineyards and châteaux?

When you visited France, which location did you prefer? Why?

When the children were younger, we often holidayed in France, at first camping and later in gîtes – mainly in Normandy, Brittany and the Loire region. I loved them all, especially some of the coastal towns in Normandy and Brittany, because I love the sea! But I chose the Loire area for the Little French Guesthouse books because I’d had the opening scene in my mind for years and then, one summer, staying in a gîte there, I suddenly thought, ‘This is it! This is where that scene takes place!’ And once I could picture the setting in my mind, that region seemed like the perfect fit for the story.

What gave you the greatest cultural shock when in France?

There is such a sense of space there. It feels so much less busy and crowded compared with the UK. And I love the way that tradition is still clinging on for dear life in the little towns in the form of still-thriving pâtisseries, boulangeries, cafés …

If you were to create a “typical French” character, how would you describe him/her?

When I created Madame Dupont, the old cleaner at the guesthouse in the books, I pictured her as small and wiry, in old-fashioned dresses and support stockings, stern and hardworking, appreciative of the main character’s tentative efforts at speaking French.

There’s nobody in a blue striped tee-shirt with a handlebar moustache, riding a bicycle – honest!

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