The blurb starts:
Having given up a high-powered job and the lifestyle to match, Tessa Hainsworth had no idea how hard she would struggle when, full of optimism, she fulfilled her dream of moving to rural Cornwall with her young family...
In fact, I bought it because it was recommended by a well-known internet site when I was ordering guide books to Cornwall. Yeah, I'll stick that on my Kindle, it's not like actually buying - committing to - an actual book.
I started reading it and did wonder whether I would get past the first chapter. She described her life as marketing manager for Body Shop: long hours, conspicuous consumption, fleeting relationship with her children. Shallow. I cringed while playing the world's smallest violin. It didn't get any better when they went house hunting in Cornwall, with plans to set up a business as 'Paint Your Own Pottery' (yes, really!). I know everyone is judgemental when house hunting, it's actually quite fun even vicariously. But there's a line between mocking someone else's interior decor and considering oneself superior to them.
Then, suddenly the book changed. She got a job in rural post delivery, which I think deserves respect in itself. People predicted she wouldn't last until Christmas, the book covers her first year. By the end of the book, I really liked this woman, almost felt we could be friends, and I've downloaded the next installment, perhaps to read in Cornwall.
The book showed me I know less about Cornwall than I thought. I had a couple of Cornish friends at Uni, one an ex-tin miner, and I spent most of the 90s and beyond hanging out with two Cornishmen who had come to London largely because of the lack of prospects locally. I've visited as a tourist, and know a little of the tourist industry, including the Michelin star restaurants. Channel 4 News broadcast the other day from Fowey and Padstein, and underlined the issues that Tessa had highlighted in her book, the contrast between the moneyed second-homers and that the majority of jobs are low wage, seasonal or part time, and many locals having to leave due to the lack of prospects.
Nothing much happens in the book; it's a year in the life. I like the way she writes, conjuring up vignettes of local life and local characters. Just when you think that everything's a bit too cosy and friendly, she reminds us that, although people are friendly enough on the surface, it's difficult to get close to people and part of a community that, not without justification, regards incomers with a degree of suspicion.
It's not a heavy read: I finished it within a day whilst on a mini-break. You can judge my reaction to it by the fact that I ordered the next installment. Not immediately, but a few days later. It's also the sort of book that makes me think 'I could do that'. Write it, I mean. Not move to Cornwall, but write about the characters and places of everyday life. It's not boasting on my part nor an attempt to diminish her work, simply a thought that often the most engaging writers write about what they know, and life as it happens. The blurb for that reads:
Life is becoming hard for her and her family as they realise that being part of a small community is not quite the idyll she had been lead to believeInterview with Tessa from This is Cornwall