Tout Sweet: Hanging Up My High Heels for a New Life in France

Tout Sweet: Hanging Up My High Heels for a New Life in France

by Karen Wheeler

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In her mid-thirties, fashion editor Karen has it all: a handsome boyfriend, a fab flat in west London, and an array of gorgeus shoes. But when her boyfriend, Eric, leaves she makes an unexpected decision: to hang up her Manolos and wave good-bye to her glamorous city lifestyle to go it alone in a run-down house in rural Poitou-Charentes, central western France.

Tout Sweet is the perfect read for anyone who dreams of chucking away their BlackBerry in favor of real blackberrying and downshifting to a romantic, alluring locale where new friendships–and new loves–are just some of the treasures to be found amongst life's simple pleasures.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402261190
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
Publication date: 08/01/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 298,154
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Karen Wheeler is a former fashion editor for the Mail on Sunday and current writer for the Financial Times 'How to Spend It' magazine and London's Daily Mail. Her work has appeared in the Evening Standard and You magazines, Sunday Times Style and numerous international publications. Visit Karen at and Twitter @mimipompom1.

Table of Contents

Note From the Author v

Chapter 1 Which Way to Portsmouth? 1

Chapter 2 The House That Found Me 17

Chapter 3 Miranda 31

Chapter 4 Full Moon 51

Chapter 5 Let My New Life Begin 71

Chapter 6 Camping Out 88

Chapter 7 Moving In 106

Chapter 8 Lonely in La Rochelle 121

Chapter 9 Patisserie and Poetry 127

Chapter 10 Word Games 143

Chapter 11 Miranda's Birthday 155

Chapter 12 Pink Cocktails in Paris 170

Chapter 13 Progress 179

Chapter 14 The Antiques Dealer of Angouleme 191

Chapter 15 The Long, Graceful Good-bye 207

Chapter 16 Summer 228

Chapter 17 Pie Night 239

Chapter 18 A Minx in Anzac 250

Chapter 19 Christmas Day 274

Chapter 20 New Year's Eve 288

Chapter 21 Gone 300

Chapter 22 The Bridge to the Ile de Ré 308

About the Author 313

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Tout Sweet 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
chelleyreads More than 1 year ago
Tout Sweet: Hanging Up My High Heels for a New Life in France is a memoir written in an entertaining chick-lit style that I really like. Who doesn't wish they could just quit their nine-to-five job and live the simple life in an idyllic, peaceful European countryside. I certainly have and it was fun living vicariously through Karen Wheeler. Though I enjoyed her recounting all her misadventures in renovating her house Maison Coquelicot ("house of the wild poppy")--which made me think that if a Manolo-wearing girl like Karen can do all that DIY she did I can too--it was her neighbors that were the most fun to get to know. There were a lot of crazy characters like Miranda who drank like a fish and Victor the estate agent who had a crush on Karen, among others. There were a lot of drama going on and there's even a surprising twist (or more like a big reveal) in the end. I equally appreciated her descriptions of the French countryside, the little village of Villiers and the house, Maison Coquelicot, itself. Having said that, it did start slow and I wasn't able to get into the story until about two-thirds of the book when Karen finally moves to France and I meet more of her neighbors. This memoir has the similar feel of Eat, Pray, Love but I found Tout Sweet to be a lot more fun to read because it's wonderfully written in that Karen tells her experiences and story in a way in which the reader is like her best girlfriend. It's funny and charming and I recommend it if you're looking for some light summer reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book ~ love the following books as well. Can't get enough of this author's great writing of move from England to rural France and everthing that follows.
grumpydan More than 1 year ago
Karen Wheeler leaves her harried life in England to move to the quietness of the French countryside; mostly to escape the memories of a relationship that ended. She writes about her move, the restoration of her new home and the friends she meets in this memoir. Doesn't most everyone wish they could get away from the rat race and move to a simpler place? I know I would. She keeps the book light-hearted and it is funny at times. This one definitely falls into the genre of chick lit and reminded me slightly of Under the Tuscan Sun. An easy and enjoyable read.
bookofsecrets More than 1 year ago
Tout Sweet: Hanging Up My High Heels for a New Life in France is Karen Wheeler's memoir about giving up city life in London for the French countryside. For many years, Karen had a successful career as a fashion editor. At 35, she had a glamorous life and the perfect man - Eric. But, when talk between them turned to marriage, Eric bolted. So, a heartbroken Karen decides to give up it all up and move to a small village in France. She buys a house in serious need of renovations. (No indoor bathroom! No kitchen floor!) Along with the house comes an assortment of very colorful neighbors to keep her busy. Memoirs are not my usual genre of choice, but what drew me to this book was the fantasy of moving someplace new and starting over, and this lucky woman was able to do it. For most people (like me), it's only a dream, so it was fun to live vicariously through Karen. I enjoyed the rich descriptions of the life in her village and its quirky inhabitants. As much as I liked the subject, I had a difficult time getting into the story. It didn't grab my attention and pick up the pace until half way through. There were some references to British places that were lost on me (Marks & Spencer? I had to google it!) and plenty of French words and phrases, but that didn't bother me too much. Karen's move to France wasn't just about a change of scenery. It was also about letting go of Eric and moving on from the heartache. It took her a long time to deal with her emotional baggage. One quote from the books that stuck with me was by her friend Dave: "But you have to remember...that you can't run from unhappiness. You just take it with you." I would recommend this book to fans of chick lit and fans of all things French. I give Tout Sweet 3 out of 5 stars.
tomgirl571 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tout Sweet is a memoir of author Karen Wheeler's spur of the moment idea to buy a house in the French countryside and then move there to renovate the house. I, of course, loved it. Especially since she moved to the same region of France that I used to live in, Poitou-Charentes, and she talks about some cities I know. Like, for instance, La Rochelle, where I lived. She had unhappy experiences in La Rochelle though, mainly because it reminded her of happy times spent there with her exboyfriend. Still, what's not to love?!This was a quick, easy read and if you love memoirs about people quitting their day jobs and moving to France, you will love it, like I did. I loved how honest Wheeler was about everything. She knows she has flaws, and she writes about them and how they affect her when she first moves to the tiny little village in France from London. For instance, what's a former fashion writer going to do with all of her insanely high and impractable designer shoes? Or her designer clothing? I was laughing when reading about the day she moved in to her new house (which needed a ton of work!), because she didn't even own the right kind of clothes for doing housework. It was interesting as well to see how her relationship developed with the other locals, French and British expats alike. It seems she ended up making a lot of really great and close friends who she probably still sees regularly. There was also some drama with a few of her friends while she was renovating the house. It was hilarious, but also kind of sad, since, ya know, the drama probably really did go down, since this is, ya know, a memoir. But hey, she's got some entertaining friends in that tiny little French village. I did get a bit annoyed at how much she referenced her exboyfriend throughout the book. She just could not seem to let him go. But honestly, this is a real person we're talking about who had real feelings for this guy who really broke her heart. And honestly, I would probably act the same way and think about my ex as much as she does, especially when she first moves to France. That's one of the things that I have to learn with memoirs. If I'm getting annoyed because the writer is talking a lot about a difficult time in her life, I need to remind myself more often that, hello Kelly, this really happened and it's a real person who has real feelings. I also kept waiting for a super happy ending where expat meets Prince Charming and lives happily ever after. But, as I stated up above, this is a memoir. So things don't always go smoothly and happily like in novels. And I love happy endings. Though while there may not be a Prince Charming waiting for Karen at the end of this book, there is a home. She does feel like she belongs with her new friends in her new village. And that's worth the read, and it's worth all the trouble she went through to renovate her house. This book made me so homesick for France, but it also made me reflect on the great times I had there, so I had a really happy, warm feeling inside while reading it. But what I didn't like? Karen needs to stop talking about eating her pain au chocolat from the local boulangerie every. single. morning. Because that's just too painful for a girl who used to do the same. exact. thing. *sigh*
mjmbecky on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After my trip to France this past summer, there isn't much about this book and cover that doesn't appeal to me. There is that certain passion for life in all of its facets that one can readily recognize in the French, and something that is very romantic--on the surface. Don't get me wrong, it is very romantic, but Karen Wheeler's memoir reminds us that there are drafty, run-down homes to be fixed, bug bites to cure (with nary a 24-hour drugstore in sight), and a lack of eligible bachelors to be found. Nonetheless, grabbing at life when she could is an appealing ideal for many readers, including this reader. One of the things I loved about this memoir was the full disclosure of both Karen's self-possession and Karen's self-doubt. It was an interesting inside view of the person who took the journey. Maybe it was because of this unique inside look into her life that then had me fully vested in finding her true happiness, in whatever way possible. I loved watching her transform her rundown home into something all her own. From stripping floors to sealing and painting walls, it was so engaging to actually follow her process of remaking her little French home into one she could reside in. One thing that had me on edge for her were the discussions of her romantic relationships. We start the memoir with a gripping heartache that propels her to France, that I think we all hope will be resolved with great friendships--which I'm not sure the assortment of people she meets fit--or with a love interest--which is hard when they have other motivations. Throughout the book she discusses looking for "suitors" in anyone from her neighbor to the baker in town. There does seem to be this build up to a relationship or sorts, only to have it dropped in the course of about three sentences--literally. For me, the build up of friendships and suitors to a startling resolution left me a bit out of sorts. If we were to spend 200+ pages dropping mention of the importance of relationships, I would hope that we would have a balanced explanation of their place in her life by the end.Karen Wheeler is a marvelous writer, with an ability to recall her own life story in a novel-like fashion. I was so easily sucked in that my care and concern for her could match any fictional character I've been introduced to. Having said that, the philosophical end to the book felt very unsatisfying and left me sad for Karen, and not upbeat about the entire "finding of oneself" and slowing down that I think I was supposed to take away. On the whole, I have been recommending this memoir right and left, in the hopes that I can come to grips with my own reaction to its ending. It's not possible for me to spell out all the details, but I will say that the reality of it cuts through all that feels escapist or romantic. In short, I loved it and I hated it, both at the same time. I can't say that I've responded so strongly to a book in a very long time, and I'm still left trying to grasp how I felt. Honestly, you really have to read it to find out how Karen wrapped up her memoir. For this reader, I'll admit to wishing that maybe (like in my own life) there was just a bit more fiction to finish it off.
Twink on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I recently went on vacation out to the East Coast of Canada. I fell in love with the relaxed pace, the people and the scenery. I found myself looking around and thinking..." Hmm I could buy a little house and retire out here." Well Karen Wheeler took it a step farther. She bought a run down house in France on a whim and said good bye to England. Tout Sweet is the story of her journey to change and simplify her life. "To be honest, my life in London had started to seem very empty. I had wardrobes crammed with " It" bags and "must-have" shoes, most of them gifts from designers to thank me for articles I'd written, and I had cupboards full of free beauty products. I had spent most of my life so far focused on work and chasing material possessions. Now I had them in abundance and yet, at thirty-five, I was unhappy. There had to be more to life, I'd decided, than a stockpile of sought-after accessories."Tout Sweet follows the progress of the house renovation, life in a small village and details the people she meets. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the house renovations and the village itself.Unfortunately a lot of the book reads more like a social diary and the prose themselves are somewhat stilted. Some of the 'natives' are wonderful, some are a bit odd, but I think I found the ex-pats the most worrisome. Karen's friend Dave and his son sounded downright dangerous to me. Dave's son leaves an ax on Karen's pillow - something she finds odd but fluffs off. They later have a falling out but she regrets not having Dave's friendship later on. Count yourself lucky I say.Karen's flight to France was also prompted by a broken heart. Of course I understand the desire to find a partner, but at times Wheeler's search smacks of desperation. She seems to have a knack for picking the wrong bloke."He has a girlfriend but he wants to be friends with me. And I can't help thinking that my life is going to be so much better with him in it."Although at the end of the year, Karen is happy with herself and her choices."And as I have rebuilt the house, I have also rebuilt my life. I have learned that I can move to a place where I know no one and create a new life for myself. It is very empowering to know that."I applaud Karen for chasing her dream. It does take a lot of gumption to pick up stakes and start over.
ethel55 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Former magazine editor, Karen Wheeler, decides in one day to buy a house in a small village in France to renovate. Her move to France from London takes several months, but eventually she arrives in France to begin her New Life. The easy pace of this memoir reads like fiction as Karen deals with workmen, matchmakers, and other eccentric small town characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An easy read if you enjoy the French countryside
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is like listening to a broken country music song over and over again. The story did not change, plot was recycled dating story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Je regrette. I just didnt care about Karen. Devoid of charm.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you enjoy home remodeling and decorating, you will enjoy this book. It has romance in it too. Is a quick read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*walks in listening to music*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kisses him back*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wanders in
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sorry tal and I gtg bbs
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walks in looking dazed
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
*she smiles bac as she walks to biology without a biology partner*
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walked in
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Looks aroud.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey everyone
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She walks in, dragging a backpak full of books behind her.