Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Year in Provence - Peter Mayle

A Year in Provence
I have a lifelong dream of moving to southern France. Despite the improbability of such an event, it is a dream that will never die. 

I imagine myself riding my bike to and from town, returning each afternoon with a basket of fresh groceries for dinner. We drive to the coast for an afternoon in the sun or head to family-owned restaurants for traditional French cuisine. I befriend locals and always wear chic sundresses. The whole time the theme from Sabrina, one of my favorite pieces of music ever, plays magically in the air.

Ok, ok. My fantasy seems to take place in the 1950s. In this scenario only, I am weirdly ok with that. Maybe Julia Roberts can make an appearance and Mona Lisa Smile the whole town into modern views on women's roles.

All that to say, when I come across a book that exemplifies this ideal, I soak up every word. A Year in Provence proved itself such a book.

Peter Mayle, a British author, moved to Provence with his wife in the late 1980s. At that point, he had written educational books and had hopes to pen a novel. Fate intervened and the novel became this best seller, a memoir cataloging their first year in their countryside home.

Mayle breaks the book into twelve chapters, each recalling the events of one month. He chronicles home construction, their adjustment to French culture, local events, and many, many meals. The month-by-month style added a charm I would equate to reading someone's journal. It is easy to imagine Mayle pouring over old journals or datebooks as he reconstructed these stories.

The world he describes is precisely how I imagine my life in France. It is my ideal in many ways. Not perfect, certainly, but attainable and charming. Since this book was published in the late 1980s, I wonder how much of that landscape and culture has changed. The world, after all, has changed dramatically in the last 25 years. It seems impossible that southern France escaped all of those changes. 

Mayle details many meals that he and his wife enjoyed during that year. He frequently remarks on the inexpensive fare, but I found myself wondering about the currency conversion. After a bit of research, I came to the conclusion that Mayle and I simply must have different ideas of inexpensive. Apparently, in my fantasy, I also need an unlimited cash supply for decadent French dining. 

Interestingly, after the success of this book and its successors, Mayle and his wife eventually moved to the Hamptons to escape fans appearing on their doorstep. They have since returned to France.

This book was a delightful escape from reality this winter. While the snow blew all around our little Midwestern home, I was off in southern France, eating and drinking the joys of the Provencal life with Peter Mayle. I highly recommend the experience for any lover of food, France, or travel fantasies. 

Pages: 207
Date Completed: January 31, 2014

1 comment:

  1. This one has long been on my TBR -- I love this kind of atmospheric travelogue, the kind that lets me daydream about what if...!