A FRENCH AFFAIR by Michael Kenyon


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 Amusing and smart food-and-travel memoir, set largely in southwestern France. Kenyon contributes regularly to Gourmet and has written over two-dozen crime novels (Kill the Butler!, 1993, etc.). After seeing the province of Lot in southwestern France lauded on TV by novelist Compton McKenzie, Kenyon, his schoolteacher-wife, Catherine, and their three daughters lease their London home and set forth for a year or more in that region. Just what time slot we're reading about is veiled, perhaps to suggest a period more harmonious with those covered by Peter Mayle and others in the current crop of guides to France. The story skims strangely over the marriage's breakup, as if Kenyon keeps his food obsessions foremost to mask the deeper currents of what happens to him (his wife eventually runs off with a Frenchman and later marries someone else, and the author winds up with a green card teaching on Long Island and living with one Victoria, a freelance book designer). But here it's food, family, and French that bond the reader to the page. At school, the girls catch on to French so rapidly that Kenyon himself falls far behind. Since one daughter was born in the US, the family decides to celebrate Thanksgiving--but assembling a typical American holiday feast in this region demands ingenious substitutes. The French love leisurely meals with small quantities, an hour or more for lunch and two for dinner, and thus food-talk takes on infinite complexity in the text. At one point, Catherine drives 40 miles for a loaf of bread too good for the lofty baker to sell to just anyone who drops in: She has to beg for it. Also, the town band draws smiles: ``As part of the French cultural tradition...they are expected to play execrably and usually succeed.'' The wittiest, best-written French guide now on hand.

Pub Date: June 8th, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-09295-4
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1993


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