Cyndy Aleo's Reviews > A Year in Provence

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
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May 20, 11

bookshelves: non-fiction

In the course of thinning out my book herd, I've been reading books that I haven't read in years, trying to determine whether I should keep them, or move them along. Going back to Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence was like going back to an old friend's house, but I've never been so hungry in my life as the two times I've read this book.

::: The Dream :::

Mayle and his wife live out a dream come true, dropping everything, selling their home, and moving full-time to Provence, a region of France generally known to span from the Alps to the Rhône River, with the Côte d'Azur in the southern section. Known for its food, its wine, and its perfumes, it is a popular vacation destination in Europe, with a generally Mediterranean climate. Mayle's book chronicles their first year in the 200-year-old farmhouse that they bought in a rural area of Provence, including their struggles with the language, renovation of the house, and settling in with their new neighbors.

::: The Year :::

A Year in Provence is broken into twelve chapters, one per month, beginning in January as they start out their new life in Provence and ending with their first Christmas. What makes the book so interesting (and for me, misplaced in the travel section) is that it focuses much more on the culture of Mayle's area of Provence rather than on the scenery. He includes tales of restaurants and meals eaten there, but even more memorable than the food are the chefs and servers that he meets, the additional knowledge and culture that they often impart. One woman sends Mayle to an olive oil mill, and we learn about the world of olive oil, which is almost as intricate as that of wine.

Even better are the characters Mayle introduces us to. We meet Faustin, who runs the vineyard on Mayle's property, the curmudgeonly neighbor Massot, and a host of skilled laborers who are in and out most of the year while working on the home renovations. Each individual the Mayles meet helps them on their journey from tourists who moved to Provence to something resembling natives. Each experience, from goat races to plumbing issues, is related in such detail that you almost believe you are there, and reading this book on an empty stomach will leave you pricing flights online.

::: The Final Say :::

A Year in Provence is one of those books that you can read a chapter every so often, or all at once. Like one of the excellent meals Mayle describes, it's a delicious read, and leaves you hungering not only for the food, but also for more on some of the characters. You feel as if they have become old friends, and I'm eagerly anticipating re-reading the follow-up, Toujours Provence.

This review previously published at Epinions: http://www.epinions.com/review/A_Year...
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Jen (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jen I haven't read Peter Mayle's provence series in more than a decade and, like you, am enjoying them again. I'd forgotten the lovely characters in his "hood", and oh yes! The food. Let's not forget that. Thanks for your review.


Cyndy Aleo Jen wrote: "I haven't read Peter Mayle's provence series in more than a decade and, like you, am enjoying them again. I'd forgotten the lovely characters in his "hood", and oh yes! The food. Let's not forget t..."

Thank you! These books are dangerous to diets.


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