A Year in Provence

by Peter Mayle

Paperback, 1991

Call number

944.42 MAY



Vintage (1991), 224 pages


Travel. Nonfiction. Humor (Nonfiction.) HTML: NATIONAL BESTSELLER � In this witty and warm-hearted account, Peter Mayle tells what it is like to realize a long-cherished dream and actually move into a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in the remote country of the Lub�ron with his wife and two large dogs. He endures January's frosty mistral as it comes howling down the Rh�ne Valley, discovers the secrets of goat racing through the middle of town, and delights in the glorious regional cuisine. A Year in Provence transports us into all the earthy pleasures of Proven�al life and lets us live vicariously at a tempo governed by seasons, not by days..

User reviews

LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
I love stories about people who jump out in front of life and are not afraid to be hit with the adventure of a lifetime. I can only imagine this is what happened to Peter Mayle and his wife when they decided to buy a farmhouse in Provence, in the south of France. Mayle's book, A Year in Provence is
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exactly that, one calendar year of living and fixing up a place to call their own in the country. Everything about this book is delightful. I love the description of a fifteen course meal that seems to go on and on. I love the stone mason who walks them through all of the different stone they are going to need all over the house.
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LibraryThing member mawls
The French way of life in Luberon is described with humor, insight and a lot of details. Found myself laughing yet appreciating a completely different environment. Also a good precursor to visiting there for an extended amount of time.
LibraryThing member KristySP
lovely, light, entertaining, funny, mouth watering.
LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
This is the story of the first year in Provence of Peter Mayle and his wife, who moved from England to a 200-year old stone farm house in a rural part of this French region. Each month has its chapter. It's definitely well-written and nicely descriptive, and it's an easy, flowing read, but
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ultimately I found this dull. I couldn't help comparing this to my recent read of Bryson's travelogue about Australia, In a Sunburned Country. By the middle of the first page I was madly grinning, at page 17 for the first--and not last--time I laughed out loud. With Mayle there was only the occasional, and quite suppressible, twitch upward of the lips. Only mildly amusing. And while I felt I learned a lot about Australia from Bryson with every page... well, Mayle spends a whole lot of wordage on the renovation of his house with the biggest drama involving the woes of transporting his stone table. His wife strangely remains a cipher throughout. The most vivid parts were the description of the food. Ah, truffles! If you do decide to read this, I recommend you do so on a full stomach--and not while trying to diet!
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LibraryThing member Romonko
This little book that covers a year in the colourful French province of Provence surprised and delighted me. This type of book is far from my usual genre, but I read it because a family member recommended it, and I loved it! The book was fascinating and extremely funny. Peter Mayle portrays the
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wonderful local people of Provence with humour and with great appreciation. His portrayal of Menicucci the garoulous plumber made me laugh out loud several times. He turns out to be the hinge that the story swings on because Mayle and his wife keep having to go to back to him to solve another problem. The book is part travelogue, but it is a study of human nature. It made me want to go to Provence myself to experience the people and of course the wonderful food! Make no mistake. This book is really about the wonderful and varied food culture of this wonderful part of the world. I really loved this book!
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LibraryThing member pharrm
Here is a joyful book that stays with you long after the cover is closed. Mayle describes his move to So France's Provence area and daily life and his discoveries of the locals and their idiosyncrasies. Fun read.
LibraryThing member tulip_367
An easy and overall rather pleasant read but I found the characters too romanticized and was irritated by some French sayings supposedly said by French people that are not even correct French. Being a French expat, the parts I enjoyed were the ones about food!
LibraryThing member seoulful
Upon reading this book for the second time, I am reminded of the skill Peter Mayle has in describing the foibles of the Provencal while at the same time making the shortcomings seem a source of delight. Mr. Mayle and his wife suffer through a year of delays and other provocations in the remodeling
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of their house, but appear to so enjoy the laborers who come in fits and starts that the experience is worth the inconvenience and frustration, not to mention being material for a very popular and successful book. A good guide to the mannners, customs, food, wine and seasonal changes in a small town in Provence.
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LibraryThing member ZabetReading

This and other reviews can be found on Reading Between Classes

Cover Impressions: I really enjoy the mish-mash of elements in this cover.

The Gist: Peter Mayle and his wife have visited Provence several times and fallen in love with the picturesque countryside and the relaxed style of life. They
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have decided to take the jump and buy a property there. Peter chronicles their first year in their new home.

Review: This was a book club pick and not something I would normally have chosen for myself. The writing was enjoyable enough but I suffered along with the lack of a plot. Instead of a tale with a beginning, middle and end - I was presented with a large collection of anecdotes. While these were, in themselves, enjoyable, they did not lend to engrossment in the novel or inspire me to pick it up again after a few hours of distraction elsewhere.

This book felt like a lazy summer day, pleasant, but lacking anything of substance. As such, I am having difficulty finding things to write about. There was nothing inherently BAD about the book, but there was nothing particularly impressive either. One issue that I did encounter was the descriptions of food. At the beginning, these were interesting and charming but, as time wore on, they became tedious. By the end of the book, I felt that I had sat with Peter and his wife at every meal for an entire year!

All in all, A Year in Provence is a light, easy read perfectly suited to an easy going vacation or simply a trip to the beach. However, if you are looking for something with a little more substance, it would be best to move on to something else on the shelf.
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LibraryThing member karl.steel
Good cheap fun, although seems stretched a little thin by the end.
LibraryThing member aelizabethj
When I first read this as a wee Ashley, I was enthralled. I'd been abroad some as a child, but never longer than a week or two at a time and I'd always secretly dreamt of selling everything and moving someplace new, learning the language as I immersed myself in the town. This reread has not held up
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to the test of time; I feel like I have enjoyed Under the Tuscan Sun now more than Provence. As one of the first "new town" memoirs I have read (and enjoyed), I have to say, this time around I found myself skipping through pages when I used to pour over them. Is it because I've read better ones since then? Maybe. Do I still love France? Of course.
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LibraryThing member tungsten_peerts
Since I just started the book, the current ... thing ... can't really be called a "review." It will be more of an ongoing "account."

I'm reading this as a book club selection. This seems to be common.

I am prepared to hate this book, since it looks like one of those books. If you know what I mean,
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you'll know what I mean.

We'll see.

The first chapter was well-written and diverting, but I can already see danger signs. I suspect -- and will enjoy watching whether my suspicion is confirmed -- there will be no truly unpleasant characters. No. They will all be ... picturesque.

Yes, Virginia: I am a snob. But I suspect I am not that kind of snob. ;^)

More to come.
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LibraryThing member simchaboston
(Originally written October 200 and ported over from the now-defunct Epinions.com)

Every so often, I get the urge to run out and buy a French farmhouse.

The reason for this bizarre impulse? "A Year in Provence," the enjoyable memoir from Englishman-turned-expatriate Peter Mayle.

The British Book
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Awards named "A Year" the best travel book of 1989, and it's easy to see why. This is no dry catalogue of attractions and events, but a witty, personable account that brims with the sights, sounds, smells and (last but not least) tastes of everyday Provencal life.

"We had bought a house, taken French lessons, said our good-byes, shipped over our two dogs, and become foreigners."

Over a decade ago, Mayle and his wife became expats - they pulled up stakes in England, purchased a 200-year-old house in the Luberon region, and settled in as year-round, full-time residents of Provence. "A Year," based on the Mayles' first twelve months in their adopted home, was originally published in Great Britain, in 1989; the U.S. printing would follow a year later. (Mayle would go on to write "Encore Provence" and "Toujours Provence." )

Mayle's book is one of the slimmer volumes in my collection, weighing in at just over 200 pages. As the title suggests, he's arranged things chronologically. "A Year" kicks off on New Year's Day and proceeds to the following New Year's Eve; each month, and its collection of anecdotes and musings, gets a chapter all to itself.

Despite this organization, the book is a memoir, not a diary or a piece of reportage. Mayle may mention certain events, but rarely says exactly when or where they occur. (In fact, he never tells us which "Year" he's referring to.) Some people may find fault with this lack of specificity; I don't. IMHO, these stories are so charming and so well-constructed that putting in any more information would be subtraction by addition.

"It had been a self-absorbed year...fascinating to us in its daily detail, sometimes frustrating, often uncomfortable, but never dull or disappointing."

If Mayle had moved to the City of Light, he might have written about haute cuisine in five-star restaurants, excursions to the Louvre, or the occasional celebrity encounter. There's nothing as exalted in "A Year," which is firmly rooted in day-to-day doings. Even so, Mayle has much to talk about:

the weather: "...we were poorly prepared when the first Mistral of the year came howling down the Rhône valley, turned left, and smacked into the west side of the house with enough force to skim roof tiles into the swimming pool and rip a window that had carelessly been left open off its hinges."

the people: "Gourmets are thick on the ground in Provence, and pearls of wisdom have sometimes come from the most unlikely sources...but even so it came as a surprise to hear Monsieur Bagnols, the floor cleaner, handicapping three-star restaurants."

the culture: "We learned that time in Provence is a very elastic commodity, even when it is described in clear and specific terms. Un petit quart d'heure means sometime today. Demain means sometime this week. And, the most elastic time segment of all, une quinzaine can mean three weeks, two months, or next year, but never, ever does it mean fifteen days."

the food: "...we ate it. We ate the green salad with knuckles of bread fried in garlic and olive oil, we ate the plump round crottins of goat's cheese, we ate the almond and cream gâteau that the daughter of the house had prepared. That night, we ate for England." (A word of warning: do not, I repeat do not, read this book on an empty stomach!)

Mayle's recipe for storytelling is a good one: one part concrete detail, one part cultural observation, leavened with a generous dose of humor. I can easily imagine him seated by a fire, wineglass in hand, regaling his friends with anecdote after entertaining anecdote - and being rewarded with chuckles and envious sighs.

I don't parle français - should I get this book anyway?

Mais oui! While it helps if you've had some French, it's not a prerequisite to enjoying this book. Mayle uses the language for flavor more than anything else; meaning is usually clear from context, and a small pocket dictionary (or a friend who took French in high school) can explain the rext.

Verdict: five out of five étoiles

I may never get to Provence in person, but thanks to "A Year," I can go whenever I want. Anyone interested in France - or in good travel stories, period - is welcome to join me.
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LibraryThing member turtlesleap
Clearly there is some appeal in Mayle's travelogue that simply does not get through to me. I found the book highly forgettable. Not unpleasant, mind you, but the sort of thing that one would be hard-pressed to recall three days after reading; rather like eating unsalted boiled rice. I was also a
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put off by the oh-so-superior tone of the book and Mayle's unpleasant habit of referring to his wife as though she functioned merely as an extension of himself, without a single independent thought, action, or personality quirk to call her own.
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LibraryThing member swati.ravi
A truly delicious feast of a book, Peter Mayle makes you want to run away to Provence right this minute. Simple, clean and vivid writing, coupled with a great heart. This guy has a wry, open-minded and elegant sense of humour along with a great eye for brush0stroke nuances that sketch an entire
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character for you deftly. A must-read for travel and food buffs.
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LibraryThing member Oreillynsf
How can you not love a book that begins, "The year began with lunch." Probably the most popular travelogue ever, A Year in Provence chronicles a year in the life of Peter Mayle, a former ad guy who left that behind to buy and live in a farmhouse in Provence. A wonderful portrayal of adjustment to
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new surroundings and appreciating people and lifestyles different from your own. Joie de vivre,
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LibraryThing member Mendoza
In prose that skips along lightly, Mayle records the highlights of each month, from the aberration of snow in February and the algae-filled swimming pool of March through the tourist invasions and unpredictable renovations of the summer months to a quiet Christmas alone. Throughout the book, he
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paints colorful portraits of his neighbors, the grocers and butchers and farmers who amuse, confuse, and befuddle him at every turn. A Year in Provence is part memoir, part homeowner's manual, part travelogue, and all charming fun.
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LibraryThing member LTW
He describes in loving detail the charming, 200-year-old farmhouse at the base of the Lubéron Mountains, its thick stone walls and well-tended vines, its wine cave and wells, its shade trees and swimming pool--its lack of central heating. Indeed, not 10 pages into the book, reality comes crashing
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into conflict with the idyll when the Mistral, that frigid wind that ravages the Rhône valley in winter, cracks the pipes, rips tiles from the roof, and tears a window from its hinges. And that's just January.
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LibraryThing member vernazzablue
Fun, fun, fun. The first and best of Mayle's Provence memoirs. The characters are wonderful and hilarious. His remodeling conundrums are laugh out loud entertaining.
LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
Is it Mayle we have to blame for the upsurge in recent years of people moving to France? It's possible that this book accounts for as many making the shift as a strong currency or a healthy economy ever could.

The book is exactly what its title suggests it should be -the story of Mayle's first year
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living in Provence. I can't recall how he makes his money from all of this, but it proves a fascinating tale of an escape from the rat race; bucolic and enchanting enough to avoid sentimentality.
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LibraryThing member CasualFriday
A Year in Provence recounts the experience of an Englishman who moved to the south of France, restored an old house, and ate and drank extremely well. It was certainly an easy read, and mildly diverting. But I didn't come away with any sense of Provence as a place or a culture. I didn't get to know
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the narrator or his weirdly anonymous wife. There was a lot of "local color" in portrayals of the workmen and merchants encountered by the Englishman; the portrayals struck me as patronizing as much as affectionate, and it didn't escape me that the author didn't actually make any Provencal friends.
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LibraryThing member Fluffyblue
I really loved this book. It conjured up all that's good about France.
LibraryThing member robynkit
Very amusing journey of Peter Mayle and his wife trying to adjust to living in Provence with all of its quirkiness and routine. I enjoyed this book.
LibraryThing member Stbalbach
Mayle's vision of Provence is pure fantasy. It's true, the details of food and weather and habits are accurate, but it rings of 19th century English colonial patriarchy. The French "peasants" are portrayed like happy go lucky children living in a Romanticized garden of Eden uncorrupted by the real
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world of London and Paris. Mayle is the benevolent Patriarch in contrast to the towns cast of cartoonish personalities (it's no accident this book was adapted to a comedic TV series). If it was a novel at least there would be a plot, but instead it's a faux anthropological survey with Mayle studying the life and habits of local natives and imparting information for those back home who wish to follow his colonial ambitions (Mayle was in advertising). Its been said travel writing is stuck in the 19th century and this is a prime example of the genre with a modern voice. The book has been very popular - it really is very enjoyable at a certain level - but believing the fantasy and traveling there expecting a similar experience is being complicit in a form of modern day colonialism. Mayle apparently has since left Provence because the town changed - one can only imagine why.

With that said I enjoyed reading about Provence and plan to read Alphonse Daudet's Lettres de mon moulin or Letters from My Windmill published in 1869 - it is beloved in France and offers perhaps an authentic French perspective on the region just before modernization.
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LibraryThing member OregonKimm
A Year in Provence was is the first Peter Mayle book that I have ever read (he has written several—FYI). I really did enjoy it. I stumbled across the book on a discount shelf at a major bookseller store. It was the cover that attracted me—pale yellow with two absurd looking men, one of which is
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drinking wine while the other holds a meat cleaver in his hand. How bizarre!

Upon reading Mayle’s experience as a newly transplanted ex-pat in the south of France, I found myself chuckling (as opposed to outright laughing) over the circumstances he and his wife found themselves in during their first year of residence. A different language and set of customs can reek havoc on your mental well being to be sure!

If one already had an interest in reading travel stories, or were keen on the French, then I think they would find this an enjoyable read. It’s simple and pleasant. The book seems to roll along as gently as the months of the year that Mayle describes. This read feels a bit older and mature, nothing really hair-raising--but I liked that quality about it. Just sit back with (optional of course) a glass of wine and perhaps some cheese and crackers to nibble on while you dive in and you’ve just set up a perfect leisurely afternoon delight!
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