I received this charming book as a gift and quickly found myself lost in its pages. I usually have mixed feelings about travel memoirs. Oftentimes theI received this charming book as a gift and quickly found myself lost in its pages. I usually have mixed feelings about travel memoirs. Oftentimes the author's tone comes off as snobbish or entitled, or they seem to describe their exotic experiences and surroundings as though it were all part of a pretty play put on for their own amusement.
I'm happy to say Mayle did not have this tone at all. It's clear from his writing that he longs to be a part of Provence, even as he stumbles along, bewildered and befuddled by some of the language, customs, and people. The few times that he was being a bit snooty, he admitted it, and faulted his English ways of thinking- not the situations or people he was dealing with, and I appreciated that acknowledgment!
The side characters in his story truly came alive - all their quirks and charms, their good and bad. Every person, from a hired stone-mason to a chef's wife in a local cafe, was described lovingly with idiosyncratic detail. Through this book I really got a good sense of what small-town life must be like - at times comforting and reliable, at others, intrusive and difficult.
Strangely, Mayle, and particularly his wife, were given the least amount of description and "characterization". Perhaps this was so they would not intrude upon the scenes that Mayle took such care to relate, though I do wish I got to know more about them as people.
I really enjoyed the descriptions of the Mayle's food adventures and found myself salivating over his robust descriptions of their many meals, ranging from comforting peasant fare to exotic French spreads. I probably wouldn't have the palate nor the stomach for half the things he described, but it still sounded tantalizing.
Overall this book was an enjoyable escape into a life so unlike my own, and I relished the experience of living vicariously through Mayle for one year in Provence. I can only hope that one day I can afford to live as lavishly, and as simply. ...more
I find I'm a big fan of books about unprepared people going on grand wilderness adventures (such as in Cheryl Strayed's Wild, and Turn Right at MachuI find I'm a big fan of books about unprepared people going on grand wilderness adventures (such as in Cheryl Strayed's Wild, and Turn Right at Machu Picchu by Mark Adams).
Maybe it's because I can identify with the desire to go out and push my body to the limit, experience nature at its most beautiful and unforgiving, prove something to the world, even though I'm not an experienced backpacker, camper, or outdoorsperson.
All these books have inspired me to think about planning such a trip myself, but for now I'm content to live vicariously through the authors as they describe their own trials and tribulations.
And I must say, Bill Bryson is an enjoyable person to live vicariously through. This book was warm, funny, and companionable, and I loved the vaguely "buddy comedy" aspect to his tale. Bryson is a great writer, with a good mixture of wit and the ability to describe the Appalachian Trail in such a way that I could almost feel the wind on my face, the sweat on my back, and the ache in my feet!...more
This is one of the best books on the craft of writing that I have read so far.
Warm, personable, and honest, King includes a number of really useful anThis is one of the best books on the craft of writing that I have read so far.
Warm, personable, and honest, King includes a number of really useful anecdotes, examples, and tips for the aspiring writer. I found myself feeling really inspired page after page, hilighting sections that I want to return to and remember. I also really enjoyed the memoir sections that gave insight into Stephen King as a writer, and it made me ponder my own background and see how it has fueled my creativity over the years.
I know I'll be referring to this book over and over again, and would heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys the art of writing. What a gem!...more
This sounds like the kind of book that should be dull, but I was actually quite enthralled by it. There's something deeply fascinating about reading tThis sounds like the kind of book that should be dull, but I was actually quite enthralled by it. There's something deeply fascinating about reading the personal letters of an an independent woman traveling alone though the rockies in the 1870s.
Isabella Bird is a bit uppity at times, but there's no denying she's also a badass. I know I wouldn't have to guts to travel alone, unarmed, in the mountains in the dead of winter. Some of her descriptions were so harrowing, I could hardly believe she CHOSE to life this lifestyle. At times she describes sub-zero temperatures where she must keep her ink jar on a stove to prevent the ink from freezing while she writes. Now THAT'S dedication. Imagine having to sweep snow out of your cabin every morning because your walls have giant gaps in them, or plunging into a frozen river when your horse falls, and still keep going for miles.
I especially enjoyed her accounts of the other mountain people she met along her travels, particularly the "desperado", Mountain Jim, whom she clearly carried a torch for. All her descriptions of nature's majesty were also really lovely, and makes me want to go out and revisit the rockies again someday soon!