A Year in Provence

A Year in Provence

National Bestseller In this witty and warm-hearted account, Peter Mayle tells what it is like to realize a long-cherished dream and actually move into a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in the remote country of the Lubéron with his wife and two large dogs. He endures January's frosty mistral as it comes howling down the Rhône Valley, discovers the secrets of goat racing throug...

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Title:A Year in Provence
Author:Peter Mayle
Rating:
Edition Language:English

A Year in Provence Reviews

  • Noel

    I read a couple of reviews on goodreads for this book and had to laugh at some of those who felt the book was whiney and written by a rich guy who could afford a super farmhouse with a pool no less! One review said that Mayle went back to England to live. Well – those reviews smack of small minded jealousy. Right now a farmhouse in France can be bought for as little as US$250,000.00; back in 1989 before this became trendy, property values were even more reasonable, especially coming from England

    I read a couple of reviews on goodreads for this book and had to laugh at some of those who felt the book was whiney and written by a rich guy who could afford a super farmhouse with a pool no less! One review said that Mayle went back to England to live. Well – those reviews smack of small minded jealousy. Right now a farmhouse in France can be bought for as little as US$250,000.00; back in 1989 before this became trendy, property values were even more reasonable, especially coming from England where everything was/is expensive. It was kind of like selling your million dollar house in San Francisco and moving to Iowa – you could buy the entire town for the price of your modest house in California. I don’t think Mayle whined about the repairs to his house – in fact, he took it lightly and with a clear dose of patience and humor. Kudos to the Mayles to manage their money well enough to be able to enjoy the lifestyle which I don’t believe it was at all over the top.

    Anyhow – I just had to say that.

    Now for the book. I loved this book. I curled up with a glass of wine (Chilean, sorry) and read this in a couple of evenings. I laughed and laughed and commiserated with the Mayles. The writing is witty and the pace is excellent. It’s a romp through Provence over the course of a year. Peter and his wife have left behind their lives in England to move to Provence, buy a farmhouse and settle in to a slower pace of life. The story starts with the formidable paperwork process in buying a house, and reminded me of the process my son has gone through to rent a simple apartment in Brazil. Frustrating to the point of being funny. Mayle goes on to beautifully describe the climate, which is so different from common knowledge (again, very similar to our Brazilian experience); the absolutely mouthwatering gastronomic descriptions, locals, tourists, and then the never ending quest to fix the house. This part in particular reminded me of the time we bought a “fixer-upper” right on the beach in a beautiful town in Chile, and went through so many similar situations with repairmen and guests. At the time it drove us crazy, but now we look back at those times with a bit more fondness. In any case, Mayle brings the area to life, and does so in a light engaging way.

  • Margitte

    The next best thing to living in France, is to read this book. Loved it!

    It is the first book in this genre which provided a complete picture of life in a rural French town by two Brits moving there.

  • Hannah

    - Fantastic book, would absolutely recommend it.

    There's really nothing I don't like about this book. It's short, easy to read, and such fun.

    , the author, writes in a charming book that, in my opinion makes the people of Provence endearing. As an American, we often hear (or rather we're aware of the stereotype) how stuck-up, abrasive the French are. Albeit, I have met many-a French-person in my day and luckily I have never had this stereotype confirmed. Sure, they're mannerism

    - Fantastic book, would absolutely recommend it.

    There's really nothing I don't like about this book. It's short, easy to read, and such fun.

    , the author, writes in a charming book that, in my opinion makes the people of Provence endearing. As an American, we often hear (or rather we're aware of the stereotype) how stuck-up, abrasive the French are. Albeit, I have met many-a French-person in my day and luckily I have never had this stereotype confirmed. Sure, they're mannerisms are different but isn't that to be expected? Anyway, I digress.

    I enjoyed this book even more because it was relatable. I spent a significant amount of time living in a village, well more like a town, in the north of Moldova. Of course a former Soviet, Eastern European country is quite different than France but I was struck by how many similarities there are. For instance, the struggles the author and his wife faced during construction on their house , particularly the timeline is very familiar. In my Moldovan experiences, things don't run on a "city" schedule (e.g. when someone says work starts at 8:00 am, it would be a miracle if that actually happened). Also, the constant advice and interaction with neighbors is similar. It's fascinating. I guess provincial life is similar across the board in Europe, or at least in these two cases.

  • Dave

    This is a fun book that is literally about the first year Mayle spent in his new home in Provence. The chapters are divided into months, so a reader gets to enjoy with Mayle the seasonal changes of this beautiful region of France. Mayle understands the importance of gastronomy to the French and his food descriptions are a well written part of his story.

    Mayle mentions in passing, in an almost disparaging way, people of affluence buying up property in Southern France. This perspective was interes

    This is a fun book that is literally about the first year Mayle spent in his new home in Provence. The chapters are divided into months, so a reader gets to enjoy with Mayle the seasonal changes of this beautiful region of France. Mayle understands the importance of gastronomy to the French and his food descriptions are a well written part of his story.

    Mayle mentions in passing, in an almost disparaging way, people of affluence buying up property in Southern France. This perspective was interesting because it says more about Mayle than it does about those other rich people. Mayle is, after all, a wealthy writer from England who is able to purchase a two century old stone house with a stone swimming pool on land that contains a vineyard, a cherry orchard, and other agricultural acreage all tended by a local farmer (the tradition being that the landowner purchases the seed/vines while the farmer does the work. The landowner gets 1/3 of the profit and the farmer gets 2/3--even though it may seem generous and not at all the tenant farming or sharecropping as we know it, it's still being a classic "Landlord"). It seems that Mayle considers himself more a part of the local population than a foreign "Lord of the Manor" type. It made me wonder what the locals really thought of Mayle and his wife.

    The book is engagingly written and funny in parts; filled with memorable characters. Occasionally, these characters descended to the level of caricature however, so that sometimes the story read more like "Green Acres--The Continental Version."

  • David

    I've read quite a few negative reviews of this book, many of them focusing on the author's presumption in being able to afford a home in Provence and the reviewers' consequent inability to "relate" to him. Others see it as "trite" and not at all what they were expecting.

    Well, balderdash. I found this to be a very entertaining account of the first year in a new home and a new country, with all the explorations, discoveries, disappointments, triumphs and failures that go along with it.

    Would it b

    I've read quite a few negative reviews of this book, many of them focusing on the author's presumption in being able to afford a home in Provence and the reviewers' consequent inability to "relate" to him. Others see it as "trite" and not at all what they were expecting.

    Well, balderdash. I found this to be a very entertaining account of the first year in a new home and a new country, with all the explorations, discoveries, disappointments, triumphs and failures that go along with it.

    Would it be a good basis for discussion in a book group? Probably not. Was it enlightening, or did it change the way I think about things? Can't say that it was, or did. But the author's dry wit, talent for understatement, and occasional eloquence painted an interesting picture of life in Provence, with characters that were by turn amusing, infuriating, puzzling, and human.

    This book did a great job of carrying me away from Michigan into a place I've never been and experiences I'll likely never have. It was fun!

  • Christine

    I found this book walking to the B train this morning. Someone had gotten rid of it. Don't judge me to harshly for my foray into escapism, it makes the morning commute go fast.

    1 week or so later...

    So I've finished it, and although it had its moments where I chuckled a bit, I really didn't find it to be the incredible, evocative travel writing that it had been cracked up to be. The food descriptions were probably the strongest part, and I have to admit I did find my mouth watering on occasion.

    I found this book walking to the B train this morning. Someone had gotten rid of it. Don't judge me to harshly for my foray into escapism, it makes the morning commute go fast.

    1 week or so later...

    So I've finished it, and although it had its moments where I chuckled a bit, I really didn't find it to be the incredible, evocative travel writing that it had been cracked up to be. The food descriptions were probably the strongest part, and I have to admit I did find my mouth watering on occasion.

    Now, don't get me wrong, I'm always up for a good renovation story, but Peter Mayle's mind was so distracted with getting his home perfected, that the establishment of place (which is so key to travel writing) suffered for it. The characters are neither larger than life nor realistic, and I didn't really get a sense of personality from anyone except the bumbling country neighbor. Mayle and his wife irritated me with their constant whining about the lack of progress being made on their farmhouse's heating system.

    I love a bit of daydream fodder, but this didn't really take me anywhere.

  • Jen

    Hmmm...okay. I learned that:

    1. With enough money you can relocate to Provence and buy a 200 year old farmhouse with mossy swimming pool, problematic pipes, and a wine cave backing up to the Luberon mountains. Wait, it gets worse!

    2. Once you do this everyone who has ever vaguely heard your name and Provence together in the same sentence will attempt to visit whilst you are having a hell of a time fixing the charming antiquated house and bicycling into town. Hard times.

    3. Tragedy strikes! Everythi

    Hmmm...okay. I learned that:

    1. With enough money you can relocate to Provence and buy a 200 year old farmhouse with mossy swimming pool, problematic pipes, and a wine cave backing up to the Luberon mountains. Wait, it gets worse!

    2. Once you do this everyone who has ever vaguely heard your name and Provence together in the same sentence will attempt to visit whilst you are having a hell of a time fixing the charming antiquated house and bicycling into town. Hard times.

    3. Tragedy strikes! Everything in Provence moves at a slower pace- including uninvited house guest departures and the guys you hired to remodel your soon to be awesome Provencal place. You are to be pitied, poor thing, having been forced to survive on mostly fresh breads, herbed cheeses, and the occasional sausage.

    4. It can be rough rumbling around in an old car looking for great places to eat. It is a daunting task you face after finding them, having to stuff your face with delicacies drizzled with truffle sauce.

    5. The somewhat backwards, rough, but ultimately charming locals are worth talking to- you never know if they'll tell you about how to choose a pig for hunting truffles or inform you that they've booby trapped the area from foreign campers. How quaint, the poor dears!

    6. Truly, life in Provence can prove to be much tougher than it seems. But give it a year or so before you decide to go home- at the very least, wait until you have managed to have your grapes harvested by the guy that works your vines-you've got to have your own wine to drink with your breads and cheeses to give you the strength to go on.

  • Leftbanker

    It’s sad to think that there are probably dozens of great books about people who have moved to France that were rejected by publishers so they could take this book, which is completely devoid of insights, and shove it down our throats. The book has a wonderful premise in which a British guy and his wife move to the south of France and begin a new life. I think most people who read this book didn’t need much more than that. It is mostly the tedious description of the work he does on an old house

    It’s sad to think that there are probably dozens of great books about people who have moved to France that were rejected by publishers so they could take this book, which is completely devoid of insights, and shove it down our throats. The book has a wonderful premise in which a British guy and his wife move to the south of France and begin a new life. I think most people who read this book didn’t need much more than that. It is mostly the tedious description of the work he does on an old house and has little to do with France. I can’t recall a single entertaining passage in the entire book.

    I give almost everything here five stars. I’m not a book critic but there are certain extremely popular books that just need to be eviscerated. Please explain to me why this book was popular? After I finished reading this I didn't think that I had learned a single thing about life in France.

    I found zero sense of adventure in what he had to say about France. It’s travel writing for the rich which—at least for me—is usually boring. Instead of a book about an over-privileged douche bag paying people to fix up an old house I’d much rather read a memoir of someone who moved to France and actually had to work for a living. I rate this book down there with

    .

  • Jan-Maat

    (p.146)

    I have come late to this book, my parent who bought it came late to it - it had been all the rage and on the best seller lists long before they bought it, and looking inside and seeing that it was published in 1989 it seemed to me that Mayle himself came late to writing it.

    It is well known that many a British patriot will given a chance buy a residence in France and live there, the homeland easier maybe to love from a safe distance, this seemed to be particularly so when types who had made money on account of the deregulation and privatisations of the 1980s moved to France where life was more as it had been in the 1970s (or earlier). This it turns out wasn't quite true of Mayle who had made his packet of money in advertising in New York, but this book became emblematic of the aspiration of a generation - to sell up, move to France and enjoy the food and drink.

    This book established itself as the basic and apparently near infinitely repeatable model for books and tv series of metropolitan Englishman heads to foreign country (or non-metropolitan part of Britain) buys old building which is potentially bucolic, spends a year getting it repaired while getting to know the locals, who are amusingly eccentric with delightful physical or sartorial quirks.

    Perhaps in a nod to Mayle's background in advertising the book is shorter than typical, minus the illustrations maybe under 190 pages while I guess the typical book of this genre is more in the region of 240 pages. As adverts may do it leads to the curl of the lips without leading to full amusement (the above section on dogs I felt the funniest in the entire book). This is very efficient writing. Also true to the genre, change is all on the surface, the only adaptation to local habits is that he takes up the triple kiss as standard greeting.

    may be of assistance here but given the low number of votes for some departments I wonder if it is entirely accurate.

    Mayle is curiously present and absent from the book - obviously he is the central figure but we learn nothing about him or his wife who really could have been a man or a particularly clingy kangaroo as far as I could tell from the text, they have some French (unusually for this genre in which humorous inability to communicate with locals may be a key plot point) but they struggle with the way French people speak it. At the same time Mayle is the measure of all humanity - the degree of deviation from Mayle is equal to the extent to which the person is amusingly original or eccentric. A thoughtful publisher could have provided a graphic to illustrate this so we can appreciate precisely how much the guy with bad teeth who eats foxes is funnier than the plumber who always wears a seasonally appropriate hat.

    The narrative structure of a year is strong and simple, but as each month contains detailed recollections of the places they visited, meals eaten and how much they cost I wondered how accurate and honest this was.

    The most curious feature to my mind was money, and the details of what things cost - million franc houses, 1,000 francs for a custom made stone table, the price of restaurant meals. Then one got about eight to nine francs for the UK pound so there is the undercurrent that one can live better than a Lord and eat better than the Queen for modest sums of cash money. At the same time he doesn't tell us how much his own house cost or the cost of installing central heating - this is all about living the dream

    Perhaps more insidiously it suggests that the good life can be bought rather than cultivated - just the kind of sneaky message one has to expect from an advertising man. There's no sense of why he went to Provence or of developing a connection to it, beyond it as a place where amusing locals live, and beyond food and drink no appreciation of it either except as having better weather than Britain. So its as shallow as a dream too, but easy reading about full fat living.

    Curiously the same is true about wine which exists for Mayle as white, pink, red and champagne. This despite owning some vines in an appellation controlee and a habit of buying wine direct from producers one of whom speaks lovingly of how micro differences in the vineyard produce differences in the wine. Still Mayle does not open up to us about Terroir - this is an advert, the product has to be simple and seductive, you can't be frightening the punter with complexity and the whole book is shaped by Kiss- as in keep it simple, son - rather than being a modern evocation of Epicureanism.

    I did learn however that lemon juice freshly squeezed over ants encourages them to move their nest site - very useful if they take up residence in your electricity meter cupboard.

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