Dennis's Reviews > A Year In Provence

A Year In Provence by Peter Mayle
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May 04, 11

Read from March 20 to 24, 2011

J'adore the English sense of humor. With stiff upper lip and wry observation sprinkled with warm affection, Englishman Peter Mayle embraces a cadre of colorful characters inhabiting the warmer south of France in this memoir documenting his first year as a new permanent resident relocated from Britain to the Lubéron region of Provence.

A Year In Provence is suitably divided into twelve chapters, each devoted to one month, January through December, staging the progress of renovations on Peter and Madame’s newly purchased two hundred year old home. Over the course of the year it becomes clear that here time is measured in seasons, not days, and that the tempo in Provence would not change for newcomers. A project as simple as moving an antique concrete planter into the garden, for example, is not something that can be arranged overnight. “There would be visits of inspection, drinks, heated arguments. Dates would be fixed, and then forgotten. Shoulders would be shrugged and time would pass by.”

The author has a special penchant for observing human nature and describing it both with humor and heart. Lubéron country folk can be suspicious of visitors from throughout Europe who descend upon the Côte d’Azur in the summer months, including German campers, Belgian road hogs, Swiss hotel dwellers, and the British with their notoriously weak stomachs and plumbing complaints; but the Provençal people are warm, amiable, and all too eager to ensure their friends are well fed. The absolute joy of Provence is the food and free flowing local wine, which refreshes even the most curious of exchanges such as unexpected house calls made by traveling Oriental rug salesmen or visits paid by French bureaucrats at Christmastime to hint for annual tips.

These pages are peppered with French, “Voilà!” “Oh là là,” “Allez,” which enhances the feel for a foreigner’s life in France as well as doubling as a grammar in simple and useful phrases to those readers who are sure to add Provence to their must-see list. This account is often laugh-out-loud hilarious and is every bit as savory as the much sought after and highly prized black Périgord truffles grown only in this region.
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