At first I was sceptical about this book. As someone who knows the South of France quite well, and an avid reader, my expectations were high, but this book didn't disappoint me, to say the least. I expected it to be informative rather than entertaining but it turned out to be both. It's filled with anecdotes which I had never heard before. Virginia Woolfe's description of an afternoon on the rocks in Cassis is not something that would have made The Hours, but it's just as interesting to travellers, Cote d'Azur fans and bookworms. The format is original and works well. The author starts with a short introcution to the Cote d'Azur and dives in from the west at Hyères, taking the reader on a literary journey to the Italian border via all towns along the coast (via a few villages in the hills). Keep my trademark cynicism with me, I started reading casually with the intention of getting to Cannes and Nice and the towns I knew from my travels. What I soon found out was that towns like Grasse, Antibes and Menton figure in the rich literary history. For example, I didn't know that Robert Louis Stevenson knew the area well and wrote: "Mentone is one of the most beautiful places in the world and has always had a warm corner in my heart, since I knew it eleven years ago. Even after Nice, where I thought the book would drag as the towns faded out, it actually became more interesting as lesser know facts emerged, such as Somerset Maugham's long association with Cap Ferrat or Karl Marx's thoughts on the casino at Monaco. The author's had a great way of putting things (like describing tubercular authors "haemorrhaging their way along the coast") and the book also includes mini-biographies of the authors and a map of the coast. The title may be a little off-putting to non-scholars like myself, but in fact the book is a light and entertaining guide, unlike many author's biographies. It's part travel reading, part history, part biography and full of anecdotes told against the unique backdrop that is the Cote d'Azur. I highly recommend this book as a great read for travellers, and fans of both fiction and non-fiction.
Ted Jones' review of writers who spent time in the very South of France, is a masterly and unique approach to a subject previously unexplored in any coherent depth. The writer is clearly a man with a passion for literature (and the South of France) and an enthusiastice desire to place the writers in their context, realising that in order to understand their writings it in necessary to understand the influence of the places in which they have lived. Particularly impressive was his attention to detail, and one can imagine the years of painstaking research, obviously carried out with enormous pleasure, to discover previously hidden aspects of intimate events in the lives of well-known writers. Anyone interested in those associated with the Riviera will revel in this literary companion. It is an essential and perceptive guide to include in ones luggage.
Whether you are already living on the Côte d'Azur (or in it's surrounding hills), planning to go there, dreaming about going there or simply eager to know what writers got up to when they were there themselves, The French Riviera: A Literary Guide for Travellers by Ted Jones is indispensable. The number of writers who dipped their toes in the gentle waves of the Mediterranean or wandered the pine and thyme scented hills above, is vast and diverse - and they must almost all be within the pages of this book. So settle in a sun lounger or armchair, with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and join them in their adventures, love affairs and mishaps. Just know it will be very difficult to leave them. From: London Lass
This was a captivating and highly entertaining read. Finished it in one sitting. Who knew so many famous writers had lived and died on the Riviera? Makes me want to rush back and see the sites first hand. The potted biographies are a master touch.The French tourist board should be sponsoring this book. Highly recommended.
We were staying in Menton when we read this and found the book added greatly to our holiday enjoyment. It is well written, amusing and informative. Good anecdotes. Highly recommend for anyone thinking of holidaying in the area