Having delighted millions of Americans with A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence, Peter Mayle treats us to a wonderfully entertaining novel of escape, romance, and adventure, played out in the landscape he has made so irresistible. Simon Shaw, a forty-two-year-old advertising tycoon, worn down by insatiable clients and a rapacious ex-wife, wants to get away from it all. On impulse he drives off in his Congo-black Porsche convertible to take a break in the South of France. When an accident strands him in a ...
Having delighted millions of Americans with A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence, Peter Mayle treats us to a wonderfully entertaining novel of escape, romance, and adventure, played out in the landscape he has made so irresistible. Simon Shaw, a forty-two-year-old advertising tycoon, worn down by insatiable clients and a rapacious ex-wife, wants to get away from it all. On impulse he drives off in his Congo-black Porsche convertible to take a break in the South of France. When an accident strands him in a small village in the Luberon, an enchanting French woman, who is between husbands, comes to his rescue and soon lures him into buying the local gendarmerie with its splendid view. Together with the indispensable aid of Ernest, Simon's majordomo - valet, chauffeur, confidant, master of detail, and inspired flower arranger - they transform the rubble into a little jewel of a hotel. And life seems idyllic. But at the same time, something pas tres catholique is afoot: a petty crook, recently released from the Marseilles prison, and some of his pals are plotting an assault on the bank - more picturesque than secure - in the nearby town. Paths cross; schemes go awry; an heir to millions disappears. And through it all Peter Mayle delights us with the intrigues of the haute monde that descends on the Hotel Pastis and the machinations of the bad guys in the environs, as everything conspires to threaten the heaven on earth that Simon Shaw has envisioned.
As fans of A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence may have suspected, Mayle's skills as a writer translate well into fiction. His first novel is as adroit, funny and charming as his previous works, and again it is set in his favorite region of France. Newly divorced, disenchanted and bored with his job as a director of a prestigious British ad agency, Simon Shaw is delighted when beautiful Frenchwoman Nicole Bouvier suggests that he rescue from bankruptcy a half-finished hotel in the drolly named town of Brassiere-les-Deux-Eglises. Taking a huge risk, Simon resigns from his agency and becomes patron of the new establishment in the picturesque Luberon region. In counterpoint, Mayle crosscuts to the escapades of a lovable band of criminals who are conspiring to break into the vault of a bank in the neighboring village of Isle-sur-Sorges. As the threads of the plot begin to converge, Mayle displays his satiric eye for social foibles by skewering advertising execs in England and the U.S.; he is equally adept at evoking typical Provencal villagers. Wickedly sharp and sympathetic at the same time, his characterizations are accurate down to nuances of class differences, voice, accent and vocabulary. The novel is as smooth as a sip of pastis, and one hopes that Mayle will find his segue into fiction equally addictive. 100,000 first printing. Oct.
Mayle's first novel is carefully abridged and wonderfully read by Tim Pigott-Smith. The tale is one of contrasts: the traditional values of Provence and the pressures of international business; the complexities and delights of haute cuisine and the simplicity of pastis; the diversity of values of people from Britain, France, New York, and Texas; and honest labor and a bank robbery in Provence. Some familiarity with the French language, though not required for following the action, will add considerably to the listener's enjoyment. Piggott-Smith's narration and his mastery of dialect, along with the high production quality of this audiobook, make this rendition an absolute delight for the general listener. Very highly recommended.-- Cliff Glaviano, Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., Ohio
Consumer glories rendered by a master (the velvety Acquired Tastes, 1992) in a richly amusing first novel set in London and Provence, even more stylish than Mayle's travel hits (Toujours Provence, 1991, etc.). The productive Mayle also has a new nonfiction work this season (Up the Agency, p. 38), which pours lime on his 13 years as a junior copywriter and then creative director in the Madison Avenue ad arena. That background feeds into his novel—the story of cultivated advertising colossus Simon Shaw, now 42, tired of the ad game, divorced by his "neglected" wife (his former secretary), who has gone high society with a mania for fancy decoration. Taking his first vacation in over two years, Simon solos into sleepy BrassiŠre-les-Deux-Eglis, where his injured Porsche must remain while parts are shipped in. Simon deliquesces in Paradise, or melts into sappy goo, under the tanned cleavage of Nicole Bouvier, a homeowner pinched by thin alimony payments. A London meet with the Rubber Barons, a condom company offering a $30 million-dollar account, and a visit to Nicole convince him that he's burnt out at advertising and would much rather refurbish the abandoned gendarmerie in BrassiŠre and turn it into a first-class hotel, with the aid of his tartly well-spoken major-domo Ernest—and Nicole! Meanwhile, Hotel Pastis meets Big Deal on Madonna Street as a band of thieves dryly plan and carry out the July 14th holiday robbery of the most picturesque little bank in Provence, an event that becomes the unwanted kidnapping of a multibillionaire's son. A cedar box of Havana Churchills, a pint of white diamonds—the gift novel par excellence, its smart dialogue at full glitter throughout.(First printing of 100,000 is just frog jelly before the tads pop.)
Peter Mayle spent fifteen years in the advertising business, first as a copywriter and then as a reluctant executive, before escaping Madison Avenue in 1975 to write educational books for children. In 1990, Mr. Mayle published A Year in Provence, which became an international bestseller. He is also the author of Encore Provence, Toujours Provence, A Dog's Life, Anything Considered and Chasing Cezanne. In addition to writing books which have been translated into more than twenty languages, Mayle has contributed to the Sunday Times, Financial Times, Independent, GQ and Esquire. He and his wife and two dogs live in the South of France.