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A Year in Provence
Peter Mayle
Published by Vintage Books in 1990
Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2002


Recently I bought a large format book of color photographs of Provence after having repeatedly read a description in the Daedalus book catalog that went approximately, "Every so often we get a desire to stop writing these silly blurbs and run away to the south of France(Provence)."

When the Christmas mail brought this book as a gift from my daughter Carla, I got my chance to spend a year in Provence over the next two weeks with Peter and his wife. They bought a cottage in the Luberon section of Provence and moved into it. It came with an estate of 47 acres and Faustin, the tenant farmer who tended the grape vineyard. He adamantly defended its existence against a metamorphosis into tennis courts by rich seasonal tourists intent on recreating in Provence the pastimes of their non-holiday world. A defense that was unnecessary in Mayle's case, because he intended to merge into the milieu of the region, not fight against it with foreign conveniences. And merge he did. And thereupon hangs a tale -- this book.

Through Mayle's delightful writing, we discover the gustatory delights of a folk who dedicate their lives to dinner -- a middle of the day main meal that covers a minimum of 10 courses, 6 bottles of wine, and 3 hours. We discover the dreaded Mistral winds that blow hot and dry in the summer and arctic cold in the winter from the steppes of Russia. These dreadful winds were the cause of the only foreign convenience that Peter chose to add to his cottage: central heating. Normalement that installation would take several days in the States, but the author found the meaning of normalement to be a movable feast in Luberon. Six months, beginning in June, were insufficient to the task of completion, and, in desperation for a dust-free, windowed Christmas, Mrs. Mayle came up with a brainstorm, "Let's invite the workers and their wives to a Christmas dinner." The very next day the workers returned and, without explanation for their sudden return, proceeded to complete the job in time for the party. Vive La Femme!

Vive La Provence!

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