Originally published: December 1989
Author: Peter Mayle
Published by: Penguin
Length: 210 pages
Reading dates: 21-25 January 2021
For January’s book club we voted for books that had the word “Year” in the title. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle was our chosen book and to be honest, when the time came to read it, I really didn’t think I was in the mood for it! But I instantly got drawn in and ended up really enjoying it and this is why I love my book club!
Back in the late 1980s, Peter Mayle and his wife did what many people dream of and moved to a 200 year old farmhouse with it’s own vineyards in the Luberon region of Provence in France.
This book is a month by month diary of that first year and I found it really interesting and humorous. There are a lot of references to food and to be honest, any book that talks about food is a winner for me. The huge meals they were served and descriptions of cafes they went to and all the wine they drank made my mouth water!
The challenges they had making their home more comfortable to live in was another key focus of the book. The year begins with a severe winter during which they realised their house would need central heating. As the weather improves, they find themselves inundated with visitors from the UK, many of whom choose to ignore social niceties and invite themselves.
The people we meet in Provence and the way they do things differently was a source of amusement for Mayle and his wife. Builders who are friendly and work long hours but are also very vague about when they might finish a job. One of their neighbours who has a great dislike for tourists, and threatens to plant land mines to deter them. I especially liked the café owners who cooked what they pleased rather than letting diners choose from a menu.
Because the book is told over the course of a year, I really got the sense of what each season felt like. The bitter cold of the winter to the beautiful days of summer. I also loved reading about hunting for truffles and mushrooms and about the grape harvest.
Overall it was a popular book club choice and we all really enjoyed it. It was an easy, humorous and light book to read and the only criticism was that it may come across as a bit smug. We also had concerns over what the people thought who were featured in the book! A great addition would of been some pictures of the farmhouse and the places he described. But I really liked it and would recommend it. A good book club choice!
TV Mini Series
The book was adapted into a TV mini series in 1993 staring John Thaw and Lindsay Duncan. I haven’t seen it (a few of our book club had) but I would like to now, purely to be able to see the actual places he talked about!
About the author:
Peter Mayle (born June 14, 1939, in Brighton) was a British author famous for his series of books detailing life in Provence, France. He spent fifteen years in advertising before leaving the business in 1975 to write educational books, including a series on sex education for children and young people. In 1989, A Year in Provence was published and became an international bestseller. His books have been translated into more than twenty languages, and he was a contributing writer to magazines and newspapers. Indeed, his seventh book, A Year in Provence, chronicles a year in the life of a British expatriate who settled in the village of Ménerbes. His book A Good Year was the basis for the eponymous 2006 film directed by Ridley Scott and starring actor Russell Crowe. Peter Mayle died in Provence, France.