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A Year in Provence Paperback – June 4, 1991

4.4 out of 5 stars 440 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Who hasn't dreamed, on a mundane Monday or frowzy Friday, of chucking it all in and packing off to the south of France? Provençal cookbooks and guidebooks entice with provocatively fresh salads and azure skies, but is it really all Côtes-du-Rhône and fleur-de-lis? Author Peter Mayle answers that question with wit, warmth, and wicked candor in A Year in Provence, the chronicle of his own foray into Provençal domesticity.

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

From Publishers Weekly

An account of the author's first frustrating but enlightening year in Provence opens with a memorable New Year's lunch and closes with an impromptu Christmas dinner. "In nimble prose, Mayle . . . captures the humorous aspects of visits to markets, vineyards and goat races, and hunting for mushrooms," said PW. Author tour. Illustrated.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (June 4, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780679731146
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679731146
  • ASIN: 0679731148
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (440 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When I was a sophomore in college, I spent a semester in Aix-en-Provence, France. While I was there I discovered that many of my fellow classmates had read "A Year in Provence" and were captivated by Mayle's account. Once I returned to the US, my parents bought it for me and I devoured it quickly. I loved this book -- and since I spent some time in Provence, I could relate to the various characters and adventures that Mr. Mayle writes about. His talent is definitely in the writing -- you certainly feel as if you are in Provence with him, searching out truffles or lamenting over his stone dining room table. I read this book (as well as its sequel, "Toujours Provence") over and over again, whenever I want to reminisce about the four months I spent abroad, or just for a few quick laughs. It truly is like taking a vacation, and taking a peek into Peter Mayle's charming quaint Provencal life. I highly recommend this book to anyone . . . and I promise that you will want to visit the South of France immediately!
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Format: Paperback
A French national, 4th generation "provençale" (from Provence), I couldn't help being both surprised and annoyed by the controversy around Peter Mayle's book. I loved his work and so did my whole family, still living in Provence. We found it refreshing to see our little world seen through a British eye, and got a real kick out of all the anecdotes. My (American) husband along with his parents read the book as well before discovering Provence and my family for the first time and enjoyed it tremendously.My advice to you, potential reader: do not pay attention to negative comments about this book. Read it and make your OWN opinion. You may love it or not.And if you end up touring in Provence, you're in for an unforgettable experience, especially if you avoid Summer months (Anyway the light in September is THE best), and if you get to know locals. This is better than any guide book. it is Provence from within... Enjoy!
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Format: Hardcover
I generally abhor travelogues, but this defies the genre and isn't really a travelogue per-se anyway. It describes a destination rather than a journey. Mayle and his wife arrive in Provence with full expectations of living la dolce vita and end up embroiled in a series of catastrophes that require them to reshape their entire characters and perform some serious attitude-adjusting. The English, like their American cousins, are accustomed to time and labor operating at peak efficiency. When someone tells us a job will be done in two weeks, we expect it done in 10 days. When we listen to weather reports, we want to know how long a particular pattern will last. We don't want to be told, "Maybe two days, maybe two weeks, maybe two months." As Mayle reports, things are done a bit differently in Provence. Time operates in a different dimension. If time is even considered, it is contemplated in terms of seasons, rather than hours, days, or weeks.
Mayle's (and his wife's) adaptation to the Provencal lifestyle is sometimes painful, other times poignant and telling, but almost always extremely funny. He is a born raconteur, a master of the amusing anecdote, expert at rendering a farcical tableau.
The cast of characters of A Year in Provence are priceless. He describes them vividly and each lends color to the overall impression of les Provencals that we eventually come away with. Mayle pokes gentle fun at them and obviously has warm feelings towards them, even his fox-eating neighbor, Massot. Every inhabitant of the region has a strong opinion on a variety of subjects, and these opinions are often at odds with those of their neighbors. About the only thing everyone agrees on is the importance of food.
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Format: Paperback
I was born in and grew up in Provence. In this book, Peter Mayle does the seemingly impossible--he captures the essence of a place so perfectly the reader is almost transported. Far from being a travel book, A Year in Provence is a timeless classic, both beautifully written and hilariously funny. Mayle is a genius when it comes to Provence. His characters are lively and full of fun, the situations (e.g., German campers) real, and the tone of book so perfect it's a dream. Read it for enjoyment, read it to learn about Provence. Either way you will be entertained and you certainly can't go wrong.
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Format: Paperback
This being my first entry into the world of travel memoirs, I'm not sure how A Year in Provence compares. However, my uninitiated opinion is that of a pleasant surprise. I thought this book was very well written; a nice and light story; and a tempting depiction of rural France and all its glorious food, festivals and residents.
A Year in Provence is written in monthly chapters and tracks the days in the life of the English author, Peter Mayle, and his wife who have purchased a home in a small village in Provence, France. Readers are witnesses to blustery Mistral winds, torrential summer downpours, the finer points of wine harvesting, installing central heat, business practices of Provencal businessmen, and the joys of goat racing through the town.
While there is no action of great depth or importance, I found this book to be a pleasure to read. At first thought, I wasn't too sure I liked it. There is no plot, no surprise, no twists in the storyline like my usual reading. However, if my mindset was set in low gear prior to the first page, I would've been prepared for the meandering, languid story that was to follow. Also, beware of the liberal tossing of french words and phrases that are never explained or defined -- a translation dictionary would be a trusty and helpful companion.
Now that the book is complete and back safely on my bookshelf, I have decided that A Year in Provence was indeed enjoyable. If one goes into the book with no ideas for a fast-paced, action-packed story and takes it for what it actually is -- a travel memoir -- the reader will undoubtedly have a wonderful reading experience. It just took me 207 pages to realize it.
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