Troubador A House at the End of the Track

Released: 28/03/2019

ISBN: 9781789016901

eISBN: 9781789019346

Format: Paperback/eBook

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A House at the End of the Track

Travels among the English in the Ariège Pyrenees


An exploration of the English community in a remote corner of France. 
A book which looks beyond the stereotype of the English living abroad. 
No other travel narratives have focused on the Ariège Pyrenees region of France.

Intrigued by the endless accounts of English incomers ‘living the dream’ in France, Michelle Lawson set out to find out what it’s all about beneath that romantic veneer. Travelling around the Ariège Pyrenees she captured stories and observed the online interactions of a scattered English community, as well as frank conversations with new arrivals, old-timers and those packing up to return to England. We hear stories of meticulous preparation as well as buying on a whim, and from those who describe themselves as village celebrities, along with couples living in social isolation.

The book is a long way from the usual ‘we moved to France’ accounts. Instead it casts aside the romantic lens as the author travels among English settlers to hear their reasons for ending up in this remote corner of France. Readers will feel a mix of admiration, envy and sympathy, and perhaps even irritation with the incomers, as they sometimes contradict themselves in order to avoid the well-worn stereotype of the English abroad. The book is also a gentle reminder that such stereotypes present an unbalanced picture, and that if incomers do stick to some of their old ways, the reasons why might be understandable. 

The author weaves her relationship with the landscape into the stories of the incomers in this wild and depopulated corner of the Pyrenees. Stories open up comment on local issues relating to conservation and re-wilding, as well as the continuing shadow of wartime events, in this much less well known part of France.

Country Life

The Bookseller

What a treat! Enhanced by knowing both Michelle and the Ariege...but still a thoughtful and interesting treatise on 'living the dream' and of identity...what does it mean to be a Brit? How comfortable can one feel living in a different language? Some of the things she says really resonated with me....I really enjoyed it and it will be thinking about it for a while!

by Mary Hope

An interesting read! I have often watched 'A Place in the Sun' on TV and always end up dreaming of owning such a property. A lovely large house with plenty of land to do whatever, with beautiful scenery all around. Very tempting! I can see how some would follow their dreams without any real thought beyond any potential pitfalls. Such as the cost of heating large houses during the winter. Or the upkeep for house/land when you get too old to cope. Another thought is the transport to the nearest airport or railway station, which could be miles away. There is so much more to think about. This book tells of the experiences of some who have moved to a remote corner of France. Stories from old-timers, newcomers, those wanting to returned to the UK. Those who feel isolated or those who become village celebrities. I have relatives that moved to France after they retired and loving it. I do recommend one reads this book, especially if you are thinking of moving to France, or any other country come to that.

by Jeanette

Interesting and honest coverage of the British ex-pat community in a fairly specific area of France. Wanders off into descriptions of local hiking trails, but otherwise the biographical sections were enjoyable.

by Turi Becker

This refreshingly honest travel narrative gives an unbiased view of everyday life for the British community living in a remote area tucked away in the corner of south-west France. The author’s ability to bring this piece of non-fiction to life through vivid imagery makes this book not only suitable for anybody thinking of moving abroad but also for those who love a good story.

The book starts with the narrator lost at a crossroad. Although a physical act of misdirection for the narrator, this is also a metaphor for those thinking of up-rooting their lives in Britain at the prospect of a better life abroad. Such a huge decision: which way to go? And what about those who have already uprooted? Should they stay? Michelle Lawson explores these decisions through the people she meets.

The author’s journey across the region seems all the more real as we see her struggling to get from A to B on her bicycle in the sweltering heat of summertime in France. I felt like I was right there with her; in fact I had to stop part way through this section of the book to go and get myself a nice cold drink! The people the author meets along the way are depicted so well it was like I was meeting them myself. As we learn of the ‘push’ factors for leaving Britain, and the ‘pull’ factors of moving abroad, a character that stood out to me was Tina. Tina’s life had become intolerable following her divorce, where she lived on a forever spinning wheel of juggling childcare, long working days, alongside medication to help her sleep. Her desire to escape this stressful lifestyle in the UK that was affecting her health, for a more laid-back and better quality of life abroad, must resonate with many people. But rather than being portrayed as a ‘happy every after’, Tina’s real-life story is tinged with sadness at her daughter’s choice to stay behind in the UK. A House at the End of the Track is jam-packed with real people just like Tina, each with their own unique and personal story.

This gritty and realistic travel narrative is a real gem of a read and an absolutely essential piece of equipment for anybody who is thinking of moving abroad, not just to France but to anywhere. I really enjoyed reading this book which left me feeling like I had been on long holiday but actually quite glad to be back home!

by Callie

Not your typical "I moved to France and my life is wonderful" book. The author interviews English people who have picked up stakes and moved to France. Particularly, to the Pyrenees. She finds out why they left the U.K., what they hoped for, and what the reality of life in France is. I found it interesting, and added much knowledge to my wife's and mine plans to relocate to France/Italy ourselves.

by Randal

Great read. This book had me on the edge of my seat waiting for more. Perfect to keep you amused to read over the winter months. With a great storyline that’s well written and easy to read.

by Lisa

An interesting take on the movements of British moving to France, particularly into the Pyrenees region. Discussing the 1862 book by British mountaineer, Charles Packe, which is still in print today, shows many people are still interested in seeking a new adventure. Not just another rosy/tinted view though, as there are many realistic narratives and discussions of some not so happy endings. A book that has a lot of merit, and if you have considered moving to another country this book will give you some food for thought.

by Kaye

A really interesting read the author introduces us to expats who have relocated to a specific part of France. I'm fascinated by people behold leave their country and settle in a new country. This book kept me turning the pages very entertained.

by Abby

Michelle Lawson

Born in the Midlands, Michelle now divides her time between Devon and the French Pyrenees.

Michelle has always been fascinated by the idea of moving abroad for a new life, and this led her to gain a PhD in Applied Linguistics from her study of British migration to a little-known corner of the French Pyrenees.

Her first book with Matador, A House at the End of the Track, combines those stories of the English incomers with a travel narrative exploring the landscapes of the Couserans region of the Ariege.

Michelle is an associate lecturer in Applied Linguistics and she also works as a consultant in English language assessment. In her spare time she loves to explore landscapes with a mixture of walking, cycling, photography and painting.

For travel articles and photographs, visit

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