★ ★ ★ ★
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle | Vintage Books, a division of Random House | May 1991, originally published 1989 | Paperback $10.00
In this witty and warm-hearted account, Peter Mayle tells what it is like to realize a long-cherished dream and actually move into a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in the remote country of the Lubéron with his wife and two large dogs. He endures January’s frosty mistral as it comes howling down the Rhône Valley, discovers the secrets of goat racing through the middle of town, and delights in the glorious regional cuisine. A Year in Provence transports us into all the earthy pleasures of Provençal life and lets us live vicariously at a tempo governed by seasons, not by days.
Peter Mayle is well-known for his series of books on the life of a British ex-pat in Provence (a region in southeastern France). I got a small set of these books a few years ago from a local library’s used book sale.
I’d been meaning to try them out for a while, as I’m admittedly something of a freshman Francophile. I know just enough French to be able to guess at the offerings on a menu or do an impressive job of mispronouncing things. I had the good fortune to be able to go to Paris about a decade ago, too, and that amazing experience is one of my most treasured memories.
My generally rosy view of all things français must obviously color my perception of this first book in Mayle’s Provence series. Reading it was something like enjoying a particularly luxurious meal, set in 12 courses (a chapter for each month of the year). The beauty of this arrangement of short “slice-of-life” stories is that I could easily read this book in short sittings, just before bed or while waiting in line or during a rushed lunch break.
Actually, I had to stop reading it at lunch because the only thing more depressing than eating a microwave meal in an office break room is eating a microwave meal in an office break room while reading about someone halfway around the world having a perfect feast in their perfect courtyard in perfect weather (with perfect wine). There is A LOT of food and drink in this book. Most of the stories involve food or wine in some way, even if they aren’t specifically about food or wine. I’m really looking forward to reading Mayle’s food-focused French Lessons (on my Foodies Read list this year).
- ‘A Year in Provence, 20 Years On’ at The Guardian
- Feature at the French language blog of Transparent Language
- Review at Kirkus
Mayle, Peter. A Year in Provence. New York: Vintage Books, 1991. Print.
Source: Public library used book sale.
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