Sunday, 30 September 2012

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle

 Divided by the months of the year, we dip into the lives of Mayle and his (largely unmentionned) wife as they settle into life in their new home in Provence.  As they adjust to the food, the pace of life, and their colourful neighbours we glimpse a somewhat curmudgeonly lord of the manor.  One can't help but wonder why he can't be a little more upbeat about the charms of the place.  Afterall, he presents it as a fulfillment of a lifelong dream.  But his appreciation of the gastronomic pleasures are plainly seen.

There is a lack of concrete details about time and place that frustrated me whilst reading.  The book feels ungrounded.  I kept wondering, "Where is he now?  How did he get there?  What does he do for a living?  And why does he seem to ignore his wife so much?"  Not that I was looking for a daily journal entry, but his impressionistic narrative style seemed a bit vague and distracting to me.

He focuses in on the vignettes of his life beautifully, and gives the flavour of the place.  I know nothing about Mayle beyond what I learned in this book which is precious little, but I got the sense that he had looked back over a couple of years worth of journal entries and compiled those that he could easily translate into a comprehensive narrative form.

I've been curious for years about the exact nature of these books and although it certainly made a sick day on the chesterfield pass more quickly, my curiosity has been sated and I probably will not bother to seek out any more of his work.