AT HOME IN FRANCE: Tales of an American and Her House Abroad by Ann Barry

AT HOME IN FRANCE: Tales of an American and Her House Abroad

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A potentially charming memoir cum travelogue that never fulfills its promise. Former New Yorker editor Barry became the propri‚taire of a small stone cottage in southwestern France when she was in her mid-40s. Though single, she was tied to New York City by her career, her apartment, her cats. The only time she could spend in her new hometown of Carennac was the few weeks of vacation she took annually. And she spent some of that precious little time exploring Carennac's outlying regions, traveling for days to areas as far-flung as Brittany. The result was that Barry never delved much beyond the experience of the average tourist, even in her own house. Her insights are, therefore, the stuff of travel magazine articles. And she often spreads her confusion to readers rather than enlightening them. For example, the episode of the mysterious guest who occupied her house one winter in her absence: Barry wanders around the cottage with her French caretaker inspecting the caca (the Frenchman's word) of some animal who is never identified. And as for her experience trying to get a table made to fit her terrace--would the carpenter's incompetence have been even vaguely quaint if he hadn't been speaking a foreign language? The book does have some redeeming aspects. For one, Barry is never condescending toward the French locals, something that immediately gives her an edge on the Peter Mayles practicing the genre. And Barry's French countryside is somewhat more exotic to Americans than Mayle's Provence. Barry does leave the reader aching to own a house in the French countryside--if only to prove how much better he could do.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1996
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Ballantine