My dear friend M bought me Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence as a way to enjoy some time in France. She herself is half-French, and she found that she understand her relatives a lot more once she had read some of Peter Mayle’s work set in France. She thought I would enjoy it, as well, and she was right. I am not huge on memoir, but I do very much indulging in travel/location reading, particularly if there is discussion about sun, summer, and delicious food. As it turns out, while Provence is not always a tropical location, there is plenty of eating to discuss.
Mayle and his wife move to Provence as a way of making a life change. They don’t understand what goes into an international move, especially from Britain to France, and the first part of the book chronicles the comedy of errors that go into purchasing and renovating the home. The Mayles endure a bit of culture shock, as the joie de vivre around them prevents prompt house projects from a quick completion (this is something I would definitely have to struggle with if I moved there). They also travel frequently in the region to immerse themselves in the food and wine customs in Provence and there find great solace. Further, their misadventures with houseguests form another source of dismay. As someone who lives near a major Midwest airport, I found myself cackling at descriptions of ferrying guests around various locations and putting up people for the sake of their travel convenience and not your own. The book is set in a year, so you get a sense of the seasons and holidays that transpire in the course of a year in Provence, France.
This is a delightful and charming read. The descriptions of the food are quite incredible, and as a fan of bread, cheese, and soups, this book made me fairly hungry. Mayle spares no detail in his writing and invites you the reader to partake of the delights of the season. If you like location/travel writing, then I absolutely recommend this book to you. I definitely think it’s time to read more of Mayle’s work in the coming year.
Cross-posted to my blog.