A pleasant overdose

Peter Mayle: A year in Provence, Toujours Provence, and Encore Provence.
Frances Mayes: Under the Tuscan Sun.
Sarah Turnbull: Almost French.
These books are a little like James Herriot‘s stories from his days as a mid-20th centry Yorkshire vet: They praise the simple country life (except Turnbull’s, though the countryside features there, too) in the voice of an enchanted and formerly more or less uncultured (or, at least, uninformed) city dweller. I read (or re-read) them as a precursor to an Italian holiday – though, working on the theory that Provence is very like Italy (which it isn’t) I didn’t get through Mayes until after I was back. And Turnbull was read in two quick sittings because my daughter had promised it to a friend (and I got to blog it before her, so there).
The books are quite different, reflecting author background and goals of writing. Peter Mayle is a former ad man from London who has semi-retired to writing books and displays the laid-back (or, at least, wanting to seem laid-back) and self-disparaging tone of the English gentleman. His writing, despite numerous books to his credit, is studiously effortless and very relaxedly humoristic – reflecting, I think, the ideal of effortless and gifted amateurism as epitomized by Dorothy L. Sayer’s Parker’s Lord Peter Wimsey. Frances Mayes teaches creative writing and publishes poetry and cookery books, causing some delightful linguistic bulls-eyes and quite a few recipes. Sarah Turnbull is an investigative journalist and adds cultural analysis and self-reflection to what is a very personal journey (though not too personal).
All recommended, of course, as light-hearted reading in summer, but also as preparation for cultures which can be a bit harsh when experienced in the raw. Better then to have a little pre-cooking done by experienced, if ex-patriate, connoisseurs.

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2 thoughts on “A pleasant overdose

  1. Susan Johnston

    I’m sure you meant to Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey. But now I am having to imagine what Peter Wimsey would have been like if written by Dorothy Parker. He would certainly not have been as gentlemanly.

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