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“Not for the first time, I blessed the moment we decided to come and live in Provence.” —Peter Mayle, My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now
Peter Mayle brought the world to Provence with his international bestseller A Year in Provence in 1989, and while he stayed for twenty-five years with his wife Jennie and made a life, we have all come to visit again and again whether by plane, train or virtual transport this beautiful place in France.
The Francophiles, arm-chair travelers and lovers of light-hearted, thoughtful tales and yes, food-lovers of the world mourned the passing of Mayle on January 18 of this year, and while he briefly mentions a trip to the doctor within his memoir, he quickly makes a playful observation about the patient attire and moves on to the next chapter never again to address the subject.
I began reading Mayle’s book as my own travels began as I embarked on my first excursion to Provence. The length is what lovers of his work have become accustomed, but I didn’t want it end any time soon, so I slowly savored each page, chapter and “only-in-Provence” moments he can share. With a handful of pages containing photographs taken by Jennie, candid shots of everyday life, the chapters reflect as well as pay homage to what Provence has become.
Readers will learn of the couple’s sojourn to Provence in the mid-eights that inspired them to buy, as well as their first failed attempted at home purchasing, only to find the home that would be theirs and the eventual backdrop for A Year in Provence. With discussions on the blossoming of rosé in the region to current restaurants he recommends, as well as his observations of the filming of A Good Year with Marion Cotillard and Russell Crowe and how the project came about with his friend director Ridley Scott, each chapter is a segment of the life that became his own when he chose to move to Provence.
In many ways, this book is a love letter to the region of the world that welcomed and then adopted Mayle as he became Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (Knight of the Legion of Honor) for his cultural contributions, coopération et francophonie, in 2002, in France, bestowed by the French government. Mayle kindly shares with his readers the moment he learned he would be receiving this title which is a classic Mayle-sim as well. The grand story, this entire memoir, is his story, perhaps aptly titled unofficially, Peter Mayle’s Life in Provence.
What is a Mayle-ism, new readers to his writing may be asking? Here is just a glimpse.
“During the summer, I often like to take a seat on the café terrace, pretend to read the newspaper, and eavesdrop. At this time of year I’m surrounded, for the most part, by tourists, and I like to know how they’re finding Provence. It’s a primitive and highly unreliable form of market research, but I have made one or two interesting discoveries.”
And in true Mayle style, the last line is exquisitely simple and poignant. I will not spoil it, and only encourage you to read, savor and perhaps someday (or again) visit Provence (by plane or book).
~My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now (June 26, 2018)
- 192 pages
- 8 pages of full colored photographs