on February 26, 2005
I knew we were in trouble when Mayle's sequel to his delightful "Year in Provence" opened with vignettes on constipation and suppositories. Oh, Mayle's fresh and breezy style is here, and he still has an eye for small but telling details, but this is mainly a retread of the same ground he worked in the much more cohesive "Year in Provence." We are told, yet again, about annoying guests, fraud in the truffle trade, and the arrogance of outsiders who are invading Provence and turning it into a playground for the rich, which is rich coming from a man who has plenty of money to finance his enviable lifestyle and quests to discover the origins of pastis!
All that said, Mayle has a talent for evoking place, and his descriptions of memorable meals will leave you salivating. But you can get all that, in better form, in A Year in Provence.
on January 31, 2002
Now this is a book to take in the car! Mayle returns to Provence and, unconfined by his self-imposed chronological organization of A Year in Provence, which went month-by-month, produces a delightful, anecdotal account of life in his adopted country. We get to hear about singing frogs, an attempt to train a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig to hunt truffles, as well as various wine-tasting festivities, and particularly a special party for Mayle's birthday that changes his mind about picnics once and for all.
It's a delightful book, great for listening to in the car and almost certainly an entertaining light read.
Like Provence, Mayle continues to charm with further adventures from the land of food, wine, and sunshine. If you haven't read "A Year In Provence", I'd suggest starting with that as many of the "characters" he introduced make return visits here. Less structural than his first book, these chapters come off as varied meditations on random events that occur day to day; A birthday picnic, a new found pet,the search for gold in his backyard, and of course the various gastromical pleasures to be found throughout the region. I didn't find it quite as good as the first book, but still he has a way of making you feel like you're sitting down with an old friend.
on July 13, 2008
Slowly, I'm working my way through Peter Mayle's books though these books could more rightly be described as his love letters to Provence.
Toujours Provence begins where his first book A Year In Provence ended. Now a seasoned resident of this region of France, he broadens his view to give us an affectionate portrait of the French in all their regional peculiarities.
At once amusing and educational, this book gives the reader the sense of what it would be like to see France as a resident, not a tourist.
I know I've entertained daydreams of living in France of Italy, at least for a summer. Mayle's books make me want to act upon that fantasy.
This book is my perfect choice for bedtime reading. Not because it's boring and makes me sleepy. Not because it's easy to put down when sleep calls. Reading this book is a calm interlude in my busy life. Mayle has a droll humor and a flair for understatement of the incongruous situations that develop. I find myself smiling, and I can feel the stress melting away.
Toujours Provence, like its predecessor A Year In Provence, is the perfect armchair vacation.
on October 4, 2004
Toujours Provence is Peter Mayle's delightful continuation of his bestselling memoir, A Year in Provence. In this "sequel," so to speak, we become privy to he and his wife's further adventures in their subsequent years in Provence. Perhaps moreso in this book than in A Year in Provence, we begin to see how the Mayles are becoming much less English and more Provencal in their lifestyles. Full of little joys in each chapter, more truffles, dogs, annoying tourists and/or visitors, singing toads, buried treasure, and delectable food and wine, this memoir is certain to suit those who enjoyed A Year in Provence!
on April 28, 2008
Having survived French bureaucracy, endless home improvement, goat races, hunters, Massot's dogs, summer visitors, and other hazards during A Year in Provence, Peter Mayle brings us more of the same in Toujours Provence.
This time Mayle takes a more illustrative approach. Beginning with a pharmaceuticals marketing brochure that depicts a snail whose "horns drooped" and whose "eye was lackluster," Mayle educates us about health concerns and approaches in Provence--including house calls. Anecdotes relate Mayle's love of picnicking Provence style (with chef, wait staff, and linens); his quest for singing toads, truffles, and napoléons (the coins); his pursuit of Pavarotti and pastis; and, of course, his passion for the region's fresh foods and fine vintages.
With a few exceptions, such as the history of pastis and the more sobering story of summer drought and forest fires, much of Toujours Provence will seem familiar territory to readers of the first book. For the most part, Mayle is in fine form, writing that Bennett, "looking like the reconnaissance scout from a Long Range Desert Group . . . had crossed enemy lines on the main N100 road, successfully invaded Ménerbes, and was now ready for the final push into the mountains." Some anecdotes, like "No Spitting in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape," end brilliantly, while others, such as "Napoléons at the Bottom of the Garden," fall a little flat.
Judith Clancy's delightful artwork is back, but what is missing from Toujours Provence are the quirky characters we came to love or at least wonder about. Most are mentioned or make a brief appearance, but mainly they are relegated to the background. Even Mayle's neighbor Massot (". . . it would be difficult to imagine a more untrustworthy old rogue this side of the bars of Marseille prison"), to whom half a chapter is devoted, is here more caricature than character. We know no more about him, or Faustin and Henriette or Monsieur Menicucci, than we did at the end of the first book. By now, Mayle's circle has expanded , but no one he meets, from the toad choir director to the flic, is nearly as interesting as his neighbors or his builders from the first book.
Like an adequate movie sequel, Toujours Provence carries on in the same vein as its predecessor, with a slightly different or reduced cast and a little less originality and wit. Perhaps more appropriately, I should say it's like a wine slightly past its peak--still worth drinking, but somehow not quite as enjoyable.