ENCORE PROVENCE by Peter May

ENCORE PROVENCE

New Adventures in the South of France
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Lg. Prt. 0-375-70683-6 The bestselling author of A Year in Provence (1990) and Toujours Provence (1991) once again sings the praises of his cherished domain in a collection of witty and entertaining sketches. Mayle’s pieces range from reportage on the perfume business (“How To Be a Nose”), travelog (“A Beginner’s Guide to Marseille”), storytelling (“The Unsolved Murder of the Handsome Butcher”), and memoir (“Eight Ways To Spend a Summer’s Afternoon”). What unites them is the author’s presence. Mayle himself is always part of the scene, witnessing, participating, and reacting. Whether writing about olive oil, truffles, melons, corkscrews, or house hunting, his subtext is the French character, or rather, the character of the Provence native, of whom Mayle is an acute observer and admiring chronicler. Happily, the sometimes patronizing tone of A Year in Provence is missing here, as Mayle is no longer inclined to depict his neighbors as frugal, tradition-bound peasants. In these pieces, we meet astute modern businessmen. Following in the tradition of A.J. Liebling (who would have argued with Mayle’s recipe for bouillabaisse) and M.F.K. Fisher, Mayle writes with deep appreciation of French food and wine; indeed, most of his essays manage to include at least one lunch or dinner, and cafÇs and markets figure prominently. One exception to this generally droll collection is his angry piece in response to a critical article on Provence by New York Times restaurant reviewer Ruth Reichl. Mayle takes umbrage at what he considers an unjustified and ill-informed attack on his beloved Provence, scolds her for failing to do her homework, and counters with an extensive list of where to find the best of the region. Mayle’s continuing love affair with Provence takes him back to familiar themes but continues to yield fresh insights.

Pub Date: June 8th, 1999
ISBN: 0-679-44124-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1999




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