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
, Hotel Pastis
A Dog''s Life
and Chasing Cezanne
addition to writing books which have been translated into more than
twenty languages, Mayle has contributed to the Sunday
, Financial Times
. He and his wife and two dogs live in the
South of France.
1. Mayle writes "Memory is a notoriously biased and sentimental
editor, selecting what it wants to keep and invariably making a few
cosmetic changes to past events" [p 6]. Do you think this is true
of your own memories of favorite times and places?
2. How do Mayle''s experiences in America sharpen his
appreciation of Provence? Why does he cite the bustling, colorful
country markets as the best example of what he missed most during
his time in America [p. 14]? How do the markets embody what he
loves about Provence?
3. What insights does Marius''s story about the murder of the
handsome butcher give you into the ways of life in a small French
village? How does his detailed scenario of his own death shed light
on the traditions and values of Provence [p. 173-5]?
4. How does Mayle''s "recipe for a village" compare to your own
version of an ideal spot? Do you think it is possible to find such
a place in America, or have we "advanced" too far to reclaim the
kind of simple pleasures Mayle finds in abundance in Provence?
5. Discuss Mayle''s sharp attack on Ruth Reichl''s assessment of
Provence [p. 38-43]. Is he overly defensive about his beloved home
or do you think that Reichl, a well-known critic, in fact failed to
prepare herself properly for her trip and lacked the curiosity and
the skills to seek out all that Provence has to offer?
6. Mayle offers "Eight Ways to Spend a Summer Afternoon." Which
of Mayle''s recommendations appeal to you the most and why? What
other outings described in the book--for example, the trip to the
olive oil factory--would you add to your list of things to do while
7. Do Mayle''s descriptions of the people he meets conform to
the impressions you may have formed on visits to France or through
books and movies? Mayle suggests that the leisurely pace of life,
the sunshine, and the abundance of the south encourage the general
good humor and cheerfulness of the Provenceaux [p. 12]. Do you
think a similar dichotomy between north and south exists in this