Peter Mayle’s most famous book, A Year in Provence, hit the bookstores in 1989. Subsequently, it became an international bestseller, with sales topping six million, in forty languages.
This book and my first encounter with Mr. Mayle made such lasting impressions on me, I wrote about them in the introduction of my book, Passion for Provence: 22 Keys to La Belle Vie. It goes like this:
“I read the memoir over twenty-five years ago while sitting on a Mediterranean beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. It was magical to be in luscious Provence on my honeymoon, but enjoying A Year in Provence while in Provence made the special event even more memorable.
In the years that followed, I eagerly awaited each of Mr. Mayle’s delightful publications. In fact, he signed one of them for me at my local bookstore in Virginia. I was charmed by his warmth and wit, as well as his scarlet socks. While I was writing this book, a recollection of those spirited chausettes prompted me to send him a long-overdue fan letter. As his birthday was imminent, I tucked my note inside a fanciful birthday card. To my delight, he wrote back. Not only was his response a gracious thank-you for a thank-you, but it included sage publishing advice. I framed the letter—it inspires me every day.”
When Passion for Provence was published in November 2017, I immediately sent Peter and Jennie Mayle a copy. In early December, it was Jennie Mayle who wrote me to let me my book had arrived, explaining Peter was not well. He passed away in January 2018, just a few months short of his seventy-ninth birthday.
In the spring, his last book, My Twenty-Five Years in Provence: Reflections on Then and Now, was released. The Boston Globe wrote: “Whether he’s smacking his lips in gustatory contentment or mock exasperation, Mayle’s affection runneth over.” Yes, indeed, Mayle’s genuine, heartfelt affection for France draws you in, instantly transporting you to the Hexagon, and eventually, to a lunch table—set with bottle of rosé.
You can experience this belle vie, written in Mayle’s irresistible, charming style, in all his books on France, to include A Good Year (made into a movie with Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard), Chasing Cezanne, and Hotel Pastis. And then there’s his caper series: The Diamond Caper, The Corsican Caper, The Marseille Caper, and The Vintage Caper.
What better way to pay tribute to the inimitable author—in honor of what would have been his eighty-second birthday on 14 June—than to pick up one of his classics for a delectable taste of la belle vie according to Mayle? Enjoy!
Stay safe, well, and hopeful.
The Birdwatcher’s Wife is shaping up. Slower than an escargot, the book appears to be inching toward the finish line. All optimistic thoughts welcome!