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A Year in Provence Paperback – June 4, 1991
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
At first, the idea of a late-middle aged man writing about a year of his life where he doesn't work or have any purpose or goal sounds mindnumbing. At least to me, a 20-something go getter.
But maybe that's exactly what the appeal is. Just maybe, though what I consciously loved about the book were the witticisms, humor, and carefully crafted anecdotes that capture the texture and flavor of life in Provence - or any rural, food-loving region, for that matter. You can practically hear the author's joy de vivre in his writing.
The only downside is that the later months (the book is written in 12 chapters, from January to December) seem to be written more hastily than the first six and are noticeably shorter. Lucky for me the author's written several follow-up books so I can keep laughing out loud with him!
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