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Peter Mayle

Book Review, A Year In Provence, Peter Mayle

A Year In Provence

Maybe one day I’ll pack my bags, but for now, I remain a wistful armchair traveler. As such, Peter Mayle’s A Year In Provence has become one of my favorite trips. British by birth, he vacationed in France often and one time decided not to leave. He planned to work on his fiction. Instead, he discovered a new topic in the people around him. He found the local customs and people of Provence so captivating and different than his English neighbors that he recorded stories about them, and his first book emerged.

Peter Mayle
Mayle at home.

This an Englishman’s book about France. Mayle is patient. Good gawd, he is patient. He is not quite as comfortable with touching as the French are. And, at least in the beginning, while still learning the customs of country life, he has a typical English ‘charm’ about him. Something akin to bull in a china shop compared to the French.

Most of the book, indeed most of his French education, revolves around the renovation of his home. After finally settling upon some locals to perform the remodel, Mayle and his wife mostly wait. For months. Altogether unlike anyone I would dream of hiring, these working folks show up whenever they feel the urge. They might lay a stone or two or maybe build a wall if they’ve brought the correct materials. But in all cases, work is considered secondary to visiting. And to drinking. And to eating. And to more drinking. If this is life in Provence, I’m ready to pack. Assuming, of course, that one can pay the bills like this.

The writing is enchanting and straightforward. Mayle sees the world as mostly happy, and his outlook permeates his writing. Having to wait in line for another ten minutes doesn’t upset him, nor does having to park the car while the goats pass. I’m reminded a bit of Roald Dahl who sometimes wrote about finding goat droppings in the corner of his writing hut. Oh well. Never mind, there are stories to be written!

It’s a good story and, as a bonus, there are a lot of worthwhile life-lessons here. Sadly, Mayle succumed to human nature and died in 2018.

A thoroughly enjoyable book.

Four stars.


Go here for the Peter Mayle page on Amazon. Click on the book below to see A Year in Provence.

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