- File Size: 3117 KB
- Print Length: 213 pages
- Publisher: Vintage (May 7, 2010)
- Publication Date: May 19, 2010
- Sold by: Random House LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B003L1ZVMW
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,025 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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A Year in Provence (Vintage Departures) Kindle Edition
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"Delightful." —The Washington Post
"Get a glass of marc, lean back in your most comfortable chair, and spend a delicious year in Provence." —George Lang
"Engaging, funny and richly appreciative." —The New York Times Book Review
"Stylish, witty, delightfully readable." —The Sunday Times (London)
"Fascinating." —Christian Science Monitor
"I really loved this book." —Julia Child
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Beginning, appropriately enough, on New Year's Day with a divine luncheon in a quaint restaurant, Mayle sets the scene and pits his British sensibilities against it. "We had talked about it during the long gray winters and the damp green summers," he writes, "looked with an addict's longing at photographs of village markets and vineyards, dreamed of being woken up by the sun slanting through the bedroom window." He describes in loving detail the charming, 200-year-old farmhouse at the base of the Lubéron Mountains, its thick stone walls and well-tended vines, its wine cave and wells, its shade trees and swimming pool--its lack of central heating. Indeed, not 10 pages into the book, reality comes crashing into conflict with the idyll when the Mistral, that frigid wind that ravages the Rhône valley in winter, cracks the pipes, rips tiles from the roof, and tears a window from its hinges. And that's just January.
In prose that skips along lightly, Mayle records the highlights of each month, from the aberration of snow in February and the algae-filled swimming pool of March through the tourist invasions and unpredictable renovations of the summer months to a quiet Christmas alone. Throughout the book, he paints colorful portraits of his neighbors, the Provençaux grocers and butchers and farmers who amuse, confuse, and befuddle him at every turn. A Year in Provence is part memoir, part homeowner's manual, part travelogue, and all charming fun. --L.A. Smith
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Mayle also writes of their journeys to visit fabulous restaurants and the French love of food and wine. He cultivates vines on his own property, and also learns to appreciate a perfect olive oil.
The tales of the endless string of visitors, some mere casual acquaintances, and some of whom invite themselves to stay, are also told with humour and restraint, though you definitely get the impression that they felt put upon from time to time. I also discovered that it can be brutally hot during the summer months in Provence, so I'm glad we're going in early spring !
"A Year in Provence" is not at all a travelogue, or even a guide book, but is a terrifically entertaining series of essays about living among the French in every season, being accepted (at least to a certain extent) into their culture, and enjoying all that this beautiful country has to offer.
Top international reviews
Having recently spent some time in Provence, I took the plunge and purchased. I am so glad I did, a truly enjoyable read, local people presented as real people with characteristics, rather than as stereotyped "mad French "characters" ". All the time, I actually felt I was there, such is the skill of the writing.
Clearly Mayle had an advantage in that he was obviously very well-heeled and could afford many things denied to the more ordinary of us, but it still sounded genuinely idyllic.
The only sour note was his permanent reference to Mrs Mayle as "my wife" - never, ever, by her first name. I found that sadly old-fashioned and rather absurd, if not insulting to her.
But, a minor gripe in an otherwise superb book.
And, of course, what Mayle is especially famous for are his hunger-inducing commentaries on French food and drink. Throughout their Year in Provence, he and his wife eat ‘for England.’ So exceptional is the food that they are called upon to sample that they invariably return home, ‘pushing’ their ‘stomachs’ before them.
Added to this is his priceless feedback on what the French themselves think of the English, of their cooking, and of their strange and inexplicable customs: ‘Ils sont bizarres, les Anglais.’ Particularly odd, in fact, are Mayle’s visitors from the UK, intent on seeking him out at any cost so that they can make use of his home and pool for their winter-sun holiday.
Above all Mayle is a master of physical description: ‘His face was the colour and texture of a hastily cooked steak.’ For the enjoyment of that aspect of the book alone, I have no doubt I will read it again.
I suppose I see this book as being about a dream and sharing some of the highlights of that dream with others. Many readers, like myself, have read it for enjoyment and bit of relaxing escapism. Who would not want to relax under a warm sun seemingly doing little except exploring the food and wine of the area? I am sure there was much more to his life in the region but the book is not meant to be about the totality of his life. It is about conveying a sense of fun and it does this well.
Peters style of writing is just superb, full of wit and humour, and I love the way he describes the local characters. The area of Provence sounds idyllic, and I would love to visit this area of France in the future.
I suppose we would all like to up sticks and move to somewhere like Provence and live the dream. All in all, this is a great read, recommended.
Always a good read.