19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Move Over Peter Mayall - here's the real South of France, 16 April 2002
There is a little-known part of the French Pyrenees which is the new Provence: Ms Bailey's luminous evocation of the inscape and landscape of her Romanesque monastery and its environs vividly evokes the past, the present, and the way the future could re-shape the lives of the rural villages of Europe. Mostly, the book's about her ruined Romanesque monastery and how she lived there, how they rebuild it. But, shimmering through the story like the underthread of shot silk is also her own personal journey of rediscovery.
You can smell the rosemary and mimosa: taste the hot sunlight, heavy with herbs and ripe peaches. She is honest about the tramontane - mist and rainbows and terrifying destruction. Her description of the smallest ski-station in Europe is, well, you have to read it. I like the honesty of this book. Despite the Country Living scenery and lifestyle, she captures the honesty of the small, rural, mountain village. Its rough edges, its values, its humour, its - Life.
Throughout her story she weaves the life of the medieval monastic tradition, mixing pages of historical detail, myth, and romance with summer menus, gardening, family incident, moments of accidie, catharsis and celebration, observations on the politics of modern Europe. If there isn't a Channel Four Sunday night serial or at the very least a documentary in this book then someone isn't doing their job properly. This book cries out to be photographed. It's a Sunday night-in-the-winter sort of book, a lazy-summer afternoon-in-the-hammock book, almost poetic, a Journal : part architectural lovestory, part landscape, leavened with recipes and seasoned with politics: you can't really call it a Travel book because mostly she stays right there. Although you do get a brief introduction you to the some of the treasures of that lesser-known part of the Mediterranean coast which laps both France and Spain - Collioure, the "other" Dali house on the coast…Every page has something interesting or unusual or thought-provoking or vivid. And I totally agree with what she says about lavender oil.
Rosemary Bailey has written the book that needed to be written for this part of Europe. I know, because I've got this old village house…..but hopefully, one day, that'll be another story. In the meantime, don't book your holiday till you've read this.