I read Mayle’s A Year in Provence almost two years ago now and really enjoyed it. I’m not sure why it took me so long to read this follow-up book, as it’s really more of the same (in a good way). Toujours Provence begins just after A Year in Provence has been published. Peter and his wife are more situated in their home now and are continuing on with their lives in the south of France.
The first book gave a month by month account of their first year as expats, and I found some topics would occasionally drag on a bit because of this. Those small, everyday stories he writes about don’t always perfectly wrap up within the span of a month, so some are revisited throughout multiple chapters. This is great for letting the reader feel the passing of time, but it can also get a bit tedious. I was sick in hospital when I read it, though, so my opinion of that should probably be taken with an even larger grain of salt than usual.
He changed the format up in this one, and now each chapter is its own fully contained anecdote. One chapter covers an afternoon in a private tasting to learn about pastis and its history, another chapter is an account of his trip to see Pavarotti play in an ancient outdoor theatre, and another tells of how a stray dog came to join the family. It all sounds a bit dull when I list it out like that, but he does a very good job of bringing you in to his world with his wit and vibrant characters and descriptions. And it’s not all praise – occasionally he can paint the people and villages he encounters in quite an unfavorable light. At times I found myself wondering what his friends and neighbours must think of his books, after seeing how they’re portrayed.
If you’re at all interested in reading about life in France or French food, you won’t go wrong with this.