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A Year in Provence Paperback – June 4, 1991
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NATIONAL BESTSELLER • 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.
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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
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
- ASIN : 0679731148
- Publisher : Vintage (June 4, 1991)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780679731146
- ISBN-13 : 978-0679731146
- Item Weight : 7 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #12,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Reviewed in the United States on May 4, 2017
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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.
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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.
His description of dealing with tradesmen just showed you how much they had adapted to the French way of life as they never got frustrated. You definitely have to be in the right frame of mine to be able to deal with the French gallic shrug! Everything is quoted as taking 2 weeks but ends up taking months!