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Anecdotal and humorous,
This review is from: A Year in Provence (Paperback)
'A Year in Provence' is a very famous book (helped along by the spin-off TV show ... and quite possibly by all those 'Place in the Sun' type TV shows that sprang up). Still, it took me 20-odd years to get around to reading this. When I finally did so, I found it to be full of lighthearted humour and an interesting insight into real day-to-day life in that part of the French countryside.
Note that there's virtually nothing here about the writer's background and how he came to be a gentleman of leisure in the south of France (he doesn't seem to do a day's work throughout the whole year); apparently the author is a self-made man who sold his business in England and upped sticks. Many people dream of such an existence, hence the broad appeal of the book (although I suspect most people would get bored eventually).
As you would expect from the title, the book is broken down into months, so the reader can experience the harsh winter (and the Mistral wind) through to the long lazy summer days when Provence is taken over by tourists). If you want a bit of escapism and you fancy an insight into how the other half live then you'll enjoy this. Less so if you're a vegetarian or an animal lover (food is probably the main ingredient throughout the prose - in line with the culture of the area).
Peter Mayle was also a neighbour of Ridley Scott and so collaborated in the subsequent Russell Crowe film 'A Good Year' (again, set in Provence). He also has a range of novels based in the region.
I did enjoy reading this and I'll probably read more Peter Mayle books. He achieved what millions dream of, and through his writing we can all get a little glimpse into what that lifestyle would be like, so good on him. As for the writing - it's accessible and is driven by the comedian's eye for seeing the humour in everyday things.
If you're a Francophile or someone who gets worn down by the cold British weather, then this classic book is for you.