M.F.K Fisher went to live in Dijon, with her new American husband, who was working on his post-graduate degree there, in 1929. She was in her early 20's. She published these reminisces some six decades later, at the beginning of the 90's, which includes an introduction by Jan Morris. An old Army buddy friend, who also enjoyed sharing the many pleasures of France, brought me this book in 1991. I finally got around to reading it!
Fisher, and her husband Al, were the only permanent American residents in Dijon at the time. They live in a boarding house, which provided very basic accommodations. The author renders some incisive portraits of French provincial life, its simple pleasures - like walks with the Alpine club - and the shopping rituals, going from one shop for this, to another shop for that. The war - "the Great One" - still marks life there, including the feared invasion of the "Bosches." The landlady, Madam Ollangnier, is described in the greatest detail, including her many cooking rituals. They were young and in love, and in France, and "...we were lucky to know people of almost every class, and to be within ourselves eager, interested..." and "...there were the proper wines, whether they came out of a spigot into a thick tumbler or slipped from a cradled cobwebbed bottle into the bottoms of glasses that rang thinly in the faintest stir of air." As for their forays into the countryside with the Alpine Club: "And in two minutes my mouth was full of fresh bread, and melting chocolate, and as we sat gingerly, the three of us, on the frozen hill, looking down into the valley where Vercingetorix had fought so splendidly..." They eventually moved out of the boarding house, and found their own basic accommodation in the working class part of town, which provided additional new insights.
Though it is France, and the heart of a charming region, Burgundy, I did have a few problems with the book. After all, it is a woman in her 80's, attempting to detail her experiences from her 20's, including the prices of various food products. There was a major non-sequitur about a night time experience in France. Her sister, who she says she has remained close to her entire life, suddenly arrives in Dijon, at the age of 13, sent for some reason by their parents. The sister is six feet tall, and enrolls in the French school, on her own, apparently speaking no French. In a later scene, she is in the convent, and Fisher brings her some of the books of Colette. But since Colette is on the "index of forbidden books," she is never invited back.
But the most baffling aspect of the book was the ending, in which MFK and her husband suddenly flee Dijon for Strasbourg, for no apparent reason, at Christmas. Oh well, it IS France, and some warm memories of another era, and I guess if you cannot be young and in love in France, the next best thing is to be old and in love in France. 4-stars.