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review 2017-04-14 21:04
A Year in Provence - Peter Mayle

"A Year in Provence" won the British Book Awards' "Best Travel Book of the Year" in 1989 and without wishing to be disparaging, it is utterly charming! Month-by-month Peter Mayle describes his gradual assimilation into a new life in southern France and though not without challenges, the lifestyle retains enough of an idyllic quality as to be appealing to many a reader.


For example, the twelve months begins with a New Year's Eve six course lunch with pink champagne. Typically, Brits have been enviously familiar with the obsession with food, which looms large in French culture, from the virtues of olive oil to the daily purchase of bread - vive la difference!  More recently, of course, we are arguably catching up, but regular references to the importance of food and drink and the superior Gallic appreciation of all things gastronomical, does lend the book a sumptuous feel. Still, this is simply garnish for descriptions of the local characters and landscapes Mayle encounters, which form the main course of his book.


Just the idea of a farmhouse with six acres located between the medieval villages of Menerbes and Bonnieux seems exotic, "at the end of a dirt track through cherry trees and vines". And though the author recounts the unexpected difficulties with the climate and getting a series of tradesmen to deliver on the promised renovations, the Spring "evenings of corrugated pink skies..." seem fair compensation for the fact that the swimming pool isn't for all-year-round use!


However, for me, the highlight of the book is undoubtedly the rather genteel descriptions of a host of local people, with whom Mayle develops a seemingly genuine affinity and who in turn, appear to accept the Englishman seeking to share in their slice of the 'better life'. Indeed, the incessant visitors from home almost became intruders, inhibiting Mr & Mrs Mayle's desire to luxuriate in their new home and be seamlessly absorbed into the community.


The lasting impression is that our neighbour's  grass is inevitably greener, though it wouldn't necessarily be everyone's cup of tea. C'est la vie! 

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review 2016-06-22 11:53
Encore Provence
Encore Provence: New Adventures in the South of France - Peter Mayle

A victim of his own success, Mayle was imprudent enough to write A Year in Provence without changing names of neighbours and villages, bringing him what eventually became an unmanageable number of unannounced guests.  After fleeing to the US for 4 years, they returned to France, choosing a new home and village but staying firmly in Provence.


Encore Provence is the collection of essays from the years following his self-imposed exile and this time he was smart enough to change the names to protect the innocent (or privacy-inclined).  


I enjoyed the first two books, but I think I liked this one a bit better. I found more of the essays enjoyable and informative: rather than merely making me wish I lived in a gorgeous, centuries old - but recently updated - farmhouse in Provence, these essays also taught me a few things and gave me food for thought.


Now I really want to go truffle hunting.

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text 2016-05-03 04:08
April wrap up
RHS Tales from the Tool Shed - Bill Laws
Toujours Provence - Peter Mayle
Death Comes to Pemberley - P.D. James
An Inquiry Into Love and Death - Simone St. James
The Convenient Marriage - Georgette Heyer
The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A Lexicon of Life Hacks for the Modern Lady Geek - Sam Maggs

A pretty great month of reading if you look purely at the numbers:  23 total books, 3 of them 5-star reads and 4 just missing perfection at 4.5 stars.  Just one DNF.


Slightly less great is how many of those came from my April TBR Pile:  just the 6 listed above, although I'm currently reading 2 of the others: The Folio Book of Comic Short Stories and The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York.  


That means I've totally blown off reading Undeniably Yours and A Morbid Taste for Bones.  I'd look at them on the table and just think "meh", then go find something else to read. The monthly stacks are working though; I'm getting to the books that I want to read but keep getting nudged aside for newer books.


Non-fiction read (* = 4.5/5 stars):

*The Etymologicon

*The Hotel on Place Vendome

Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris

Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening 

Dr. Seuss & Co. Go to War


Fiction read (* = 4.5/5 stars):

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

*The House at the End of Hope Street 

Love in a Nutshell

*Something Rotten

Crime and Poetry

The Conspiring Woman

Whispers in the Reading Room


*The Madwoman Upstairs 

Counterfeit Conspiracies 

The Cracked Spine

*The Other Side of Midnight


Hope everyone had a great April.

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review 2016-04-09 10:19
Toujours Provence
Toujours Provence - Peter Mayle

One of Mayle's follow-ups to A Year in Provence (there are at least two), this one read more like a collection of short essays of the type that might have perhaps been columns in a newspaper or magazine.


Nevertheless, it was thoroughly enjoyable and dangerous to read him describing a life that sounds so purely wonderful, especially as the days here turn cold and short.  Reading this is a taste of the beautiful, warm life of a small village in Provence.

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text 2016-04-02 09:00
April reading - the experiment continues
RHS Tales from the Tool Shed - Bill Laws
The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York - Deborah Blum
A Morbid Taste for Bones - Ellis Peters
Toujours Provence - Peter Mayle
Undeniably Yours - Heather Webber
Death Comes to Pemberley - P.D. James
An Inquiry Into Love and Death - Simone St. James
The Convenient Marriage - Georgette Heyer
The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A Lexicon of Life Hacks for the Modern Lady Geek - Sam Maggs
The Folio Book of Comic Short Stories - Dorothy Parker,Paul Cox,P.G. Wodehouse,O. Henry,Anthony Trollope,V.S. Pritchett,Muriel Spark,Evelyn Waugh,Saki,Damon Runyon,James Thurber,David Hughes,Robertson Davies,Elizabeth Bowen,Henry Lawson,W.W. Jacobs,Stephen Leacock,Richmal Crompton,Ben Travers,S

Since I did much better with my semi-planned reading in March than I thought I might, I'm trying it again this month with the above books, some of which have been sitting in the TBR pile for a very long time.  No non-fiction bricks this month, so perhaps I can get through the stack this time.


Happy reading!

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