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The Bells of St. Paradis Book Cover by Anne Loader, published by Léonie Press

The Bells of St Paradis
A love affair with the Limousin

Written by Anne Loader
and illustrated by Patricia Kelsall

ISBN: 978-1-901253-26-9
(Old ISBN: 1 901253 26 0)

228 pages, paperback, 146mm x 208mm.
4 watercolours, 10 pen and ink drawings
Published by Léonie Press, December 2001.

Price: £ 9.99 Postage and Packing:

e-Book versions
Kindle format ISBN: 978-1-909727-02-1
Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN): B00FUS0G1A
Click here to buy from Amazon

About the Book

Anne Loader's amusing and honest books about life in her family's old Limousin farmhouse, 'A Bull by the Back Door' and 'The Duck with a Dirty Laugh', are a big hit with Francophile readers - who have begged her to continue the delightful saga. "We've lived every moment with you," is the most common comment. "Please tell us what happened next!"

The third title 'The Bells of St Paradis - A love affair with the Limousin', which covers the period from August 1998 to April 2000, introduces new characters and situations as well as describing old friends and familiar places.

"Since I wrote 'A Bull by the Back Door' and 'The Duck with a Dirty Laugh', we have built up hundreds of contacts among people who either own homes in France or want to take the plunge," said Anne. "We receive lots of fascinating letters and e-mails from like-minded people. And when my husband Jack and I spent two days at the 2001 'Vive la France' event at Earl's Court in London we talked to a constant queue of fans and readers for hours on end until we were practically hoarse. Some of them even said: 'We decided to get our house in France as a direct result of reading your books.'"

The Loader family bought their second home in Central France in 1994 and have been renovating it ever since, under the benign ghostly eye of its late owner, Marguerite. They have given themselves ten years to complete the project - although they know that when it is theoretically finished there will always be something to do to keep them busy.

The old granite house is set in the centre of a close-knit hamlet that Anne has called 'St Paradis'. She says that everything in the books is absolutely true and based on daily diary entries, but the name of the village and its neighbouring small town have been changed to avoid what might be described as the Peter Mayle Effect. Friends' names have been changed, too, to protect their privacy.

In spite of this disguise, one English couple so enjoyed the first two books that they spent months doing research with guide books and maps until they had tracked down the village and they then celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary by coming to France to find it.

'We gave them a special certificate to mark their detective-work!' joked Anne.

'The Bells of St Paradis' takes its title from the village church bells which have been restored under a French national scheme to mark the Millennium and now toll the hours and half-hours from 7am to 7pm each day. Their merry peal celebrates the new life flowing back into a community which was until recently suffering from the depopulation which is endemic in rural France.

'When we first arrived the village seemed to be dying but now there is only one house that is unoccupied. French people are going back to their family roots and making second homes of properties that they have inherited, and a few outsiders like us have fallen in love with the area and bought empty old houses,' says Anne. 'The newcomers and the permanent residents get along very happily and we all have something different to contribute, as well as learning from one another. Our little commune of six hamlets in the depths of the countryside now has quite an international flavour.'

As well as describing all their DIY property renovation, the book tells how Anne and Jack take time off to make more friendships and enjoy the social life of the community, including the colourful medieval fair (where women in wimples use mobile phones) and the sauerkraut supper (where everyone has a good time but leaves the sauerkraut).

Animals take centre stage, too. Readers can meet the gosling who starred at a wedding reception, the diabolical migratory grues, the donkeys confined by a 'psychological' electric fence, and Cédric - the turkey who sang the angelus.

The book is illustrated by Léonie Press artist Patricia Kelsall. She has done an evocative full colour cover, four watercolour illustrations, and ten black and white drawings.

About the Author and Illustrator

Anne LoaderAnne Loader started in journalism in 1965, with East Midland Allied Press in Lincolnshire and Norfolk. After her marriage she worked as a reporter and education correspondent on the Southern Evening Echo at Southampton. She was the feature writer on Northwich World from 1980-84 and was editor of the Crewe Guardian for ten years until 1995 when she was made redundant. She now jointly runs Léonie Press, publishing short-run books on autobiography and local history. Anne wrote the first of the series of books, 'A Bull by the Back Door', to amuse her late mother, then an Alzheimer's sufferer, who had lived in France and had instilled a passion for the country in her daughter from her earliest years. Anne also writes for British glossy magazines specialising in French subjects.

Patricia Kelsall is a professional artist and now, after a lifetime in arts education, a part-time art lecturer. She has exhibited in various parts of the country including the Royal Academy, and also in France. Her latest exploits, with her artist husband Richard, have been teaching water-colour painting on board various cruise liners. Patricia and Anne, who both live in Hartford, Cheshire and have been friends for 20 years, share a love of France and have been involved with the Hartford-Mornant twinning since it began ten years ago.

Extracts from a letter from one of our readers:

I opened the package with delight and anticipation, particularly as I had not read a book for about six months as nothing appealed. Mostly I read while on a train, I have no idea what my fellow travellers must have thought of my alternating between chuckles, the occasional guffaws, and tears especially at the last page. I did observe that in this overcrowded age I was left with a whole "block" of seats to myself.

Is it the best yet? Oh shucks! I am starting from the beginning again and look forward to Christmas reading the story from the first page of the first book. Curiously the impression, the feeling, whilst reading it was similar to the pleasure I get reading the Don Camillo stories. A similar sense of community, of sunshine even through a storm, a great joy of people and places, a feeling of family and immense shared love. A comfortable but not cosy warmth in a real, even ordinary, world. Yet how could any world populated by people be anything other than unique?

I love the way the illustrations fit so perfectly with the text and not merely as a picture of the text but managing by some sorcery to evoke the same feelings; they are exact and perfect.

CB, Southampton

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