Monday, May 13, 2013

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle and C’est La Vie by Suzy Gershman

The French Connection (European Getaway Week)

Summer is almost here and I think of all the people getting ready for their vacations. I know some dinks (dual income, no kids) who are able to go snorkeling in Thailand, or others who have soaked in the healing pools of Iceland, or biked across Germany. And, I’m ashamed to say, I get a little jealous.  I want to travel, too—like we did in the times of B.C. (before children).  We went to New Zealand (awesome Shotover Jets), Bahamas (delicious conch fritters), and Tahiti (take plenty of sunscreen). I’ve also been to Germany (wunderbar cold cuts and chocolate) and Mexico (oh the fish tacos!).  But we've been on a really long dry spell now and going overseas is a dream we reserve for our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary (next year, so I better start saving). In the meantime, I can still travel through books.  A Year in Provence was one of my favorite trips. 

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle is a humorous account of a British couple who moves to an old farmhouse in Southern France. Thinking back on this book, the IHOP slogan keeps running through my mind.  “Come hungry, leave happy.”  I read this book over twenty years ago when it was first published and I still drool when I think of all the delectable food Peter Mayle mentioned.  From the “sugared slices of fried bread called tranches dorées,” to the cold roasted peppers, slippery with olive oil and speckled with fresh basil, tiny mussels wrapped in bacon and barbequed on skewers, salad and cheese,” my taste buds never forgot my little jaunt to Provence with Mr. Mayle. His writing style is memorable, too. With charming wit Mayle takes us with him month by month as we explore his new surroundings and neighbors. We learn about truffle hunting, the mistrals, and how to move a frozen stone table with a little help from your friends. I highly recommend this enjoyable book!

While I prefer having my paperback copy of A Year in Provence that I can read again whenever I need a “mind vacation” you can read a free version of this book online if you like at

Update February, 2014.  My mother finally read A Year in Provence and LOVED it! This book quickly became her "standard" for other books to live up to. ("It's okay, it's just not as funny as A Year in Provence. That book made me laugh out loud.")    

More French Getaways: 

Bonus Review: 
C’est La Vie: An American Woman Begins a New Life in Paris and—Voila!—Becomes Almost French by Suzy Gershman is a love and complaint letter of life in Paris. The book is based on the true events of an American widow who moves to Paris and immerses herself into a new and exciting culture where even “older” women are sexy, where joie de vivre is something everyone strives for by enjoying good food and good company.  Living there is thrilling but can also be complicated. Getting an apartment is an ordeal, installing or exchanging a fax machine is a nightmare, and by law stores can only hold sales twice a year, which puts a major crimp in the clothing budget. 

My book club read this memoir and it was not embraced with enthusiasm.  The major objection was that it seemed to be a tad drawn out at times. I don’t dare mention the “chicken juices” to my sister. According to my sister, Suzy went on about it a little too much. Ditto for her linen search. More moans came from the fact that Suzy kept lamenting the fact that she didn't have much money. Well we’d all like to have that “little” money to buy a cottage on the beach in France. The other half of the book club appreciated it a little more for what it was, an eye opening adventure into the City of Lights, a dip into a different way of life.

"Suzy Gershman dies at 64; breezy 'Born to Shop' series author" (August 4, 2012).  Click here to read article. 

Happy Travels Through Reading!

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