A Year in Provence is a book to lunch with. An undemanding companion, the novel unfolds in a casual undulating fashion, with each chapter devoted to a different month of the year. So enraptured by the countryside, it’s food and people, you learn little about the author (Peter Mayle).
Besides possessing all the qualities of an ideal lunch companion – it is essential to be in the process of eating whilst reading the book; otherwise to you are at risk of gnawing off your own foot.
The Provencal menu is dictated by the ebb and flow of the seasons – muddy truffles, lashing of golden olive oil, crusty bread and of course gallons of wine - Mayle’s descriptions of mouth watering gastronomic delights feature in nearly every chapter.
Not content to merely recount the menu, Mayle makes Food a prominent character equivalent to a Prima-Donna, bristling for attention when not centre stage and full bodied with sensuality. Even humble fruit melons are equated to tasting like a young woman’s lips.
When not tucking into a meal, Mayle cheerily recounts the bizarre bureaucratic process of purchasing the 200 year-old farmhouse, dealing with a band of cheeky renegade builders and entertaining a endless stream of “friends” turning up at their door.
My edition also features the following two books in the Provence Trilogy – “Toujours Provence” and “Encore Provence”.
Without pausing for a breath, I launched straight into book two. Unfortunately Mayle seems to be more self-conscious as he awkwardly acknowledges the international success of the first book has impacted upon his life in the Provence. Though three years on, Mayle still retains the wide-eyed enthusiasm for the Provence, however the novel lacks structure and substance. Mayle seems to be scrapping the barrel for ideas by including a whole chapter on a choir of toads.
Just like never being able to leave the table without feeling stuffed, perhaps I just had a Mayle overload. That’s why I’m leaving “Encore Provence” unread for a couple of months, so I avoid indigestion.
The sheer joy of food can also been indulged in: