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 an 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.

Buy a Copy of Drawing Lessons via Book Depository.

19 thoughts on “Drawing Lessons by Patricia Sands

  1. I read this with great interest, all the more so in that I always take my students to St. Rémy de Provence and to the convent where Van Gogh was treated. So, thanks for sending.

    Your essay makes me miss Aix and its *environs* more and more.

    All best, John

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh and I have another on the reading pile John that’s going to make you remember with joy I hope, your prolonged stay here in Aix. It’s M.F.K.Fisher’s Map of Another Town which is being republished in 2019 by Daunt Books with a new introduction, a veritable feast of Aix!


  2. How interesting. I’ve read Patricia’s blog for years, and she reads mine. But I’ve never felt I wanted to read her books as the covers put me off. So ‘ nice romance-y’. How silly of me. She clearly writes well. I’ll put this right!


    • She’s great at invoking characters and The Bridge Club certainly might have had a different readership with a different cover, and her later books do perhaps fit within the romance genre. I wouldn’t put this one in that category, despite the ending, if anything, this is more of a romance with Provence and how being in this environment, with a group of strangers (not on tour, but where you stay in one place for a while) can be both enjoyable and incredibly healing. It’s also about overcoming judgement of others and sharing grief.

      Patricia has been a loyal follower of my blog for years and is such an inspirational woman, the way she blends her writing, her love of the south of France , meeting people, and her great photography! I enjoy reading her newsletters and knew this book would be a cosy read just when I needed it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • How the years fly by! I’m dong at 10-year anniversary edition of The Bridge Club in 2020 ~ with an additional “10 years later” section. This is in response to requests from readers who want to know how these women are doing. 🙂


  3. I feel like I’ve come full circle. One of the first reviews of yours I read was The Bridge Club, which I then read and really enjoyed. I followed Patricia’s blog, we became “blogging buddies” and have been meeting for coffee once or twice a year ever since. In fact we’re having coffee tomorrow. Wish you could join us 😊


    • Oh, oh, oh, I’m so envious!! I so wish I could be there! I shall be in spirit for sure, how serendipitous to have written this today on the eve of your catch up! I’m well overdue for a face to face catch up with Patricia, but somehow with the blog and the newsletters, I feel like I continue to follow her progress. She never ceases to inspire me!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Many thanks for this lovely surprise, dear Claire! I wish you were joining Fransi and me this morning too. We will toast our lattes to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You and me both, Liz. And anything which is as immersive as this sounds. You’re making a strong case for this book, Caire – indeed for Patricia as an author! Off to look at her books now!


  6. Pingback: Thank you, Claire McAlpine -

  7. Pingback: My Twenty Books of Summer – A Corner of Cornwall

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