Portraits of France by Robert Daley (1991)
I confess that, regrettably, I have not read all the chapters of this book. Each chapter that I have had the pleasure to read, however, has been warm portrayal of the subject, with history and opinion intertwined. Truly enjoyable to read. As the title implies, the author has chosen subjects from the entire country with probably a quarter of the chapters devoted to Provence.
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France by Kristin Espinasse (2006)
This is a light fun book, based on the author’s blog, www.French-word-a-day.com. Espinasse tells her story--marrying a French man, moving to Provence, and raising a family--by introducing the reader to French words and phrases. She captures the idiosyncrasies of living in France very well.
Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1934)
The book is set in the 1920s, in part, along the French Riviera, around Juan-les-Pins. This semi-autobiographical novel brings this period of time in this famous resort area to life, its glory and its underbelly.
The Horseman on the Roof by Jean Giono (1981)
This novel is written by a French writer from Manosque. It is about a nobleman who, after being forced to leave his native Italy, is returning via Provence, which is in the midst of a cholera epidemic. I have not read this book, but have seen the movie, which was very good and has beautiful scenes of Provence.
French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France by Richard Goodman (2002)
This is a light read about the author, a consummate New Yorker, and his mate acclimating to life in a small French village (probably just outside Provence) for one year. The focus, as the title implies, is Goodman’s garden and how, with the help of some hard-won friendships, he succeeds in growing vegetables as well as relationships.
A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle (1990)
The book that rocketed Mayle to fame, it is indeed funny and, for better or worse, perfectly captures life in Provence.
Toujours Provence by Peter Mayle (1991)
Also good, but not as witty as the first in this series.
Hotel Pastis by Peter Mayle, 1993
Not one of Mayle’s best, but it is set in and about the Luberon.
Encore Provence by Peter Mayle (1999)
Having returned to Provence after a brief stay in the U.S., Mayle regales the reader with the virtues of life in his beloved Provence. The wit and detail in his descriptions of the area are also back. Almost as good as A Year.
French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew by Peter Mayle (2001)
Venturing beyond the bounds of Provence, Mayle introduces the reader to new culinary and cultural delights, with the familiar humor and character descriptions of his best books.
A Good Year by Peter Mayle (2004)
This is a light-hearted although fairly predictable story about a young English man who inherits a vineyard in Provence. One of the most interesting reasons to read this book would be that a film, based on the book, was recently shot in Provence, mostly in the villages of the Luberon. (We were in Lourmarin when they were making the movie and heard that they would be doing some filming in Lourmarin, but we don't know for sure if they did.) Starring Russell Crowe and Albert Finney and directed by Ridley Scott, it will be released in November 2006.
A Dog’s Life by Peter Mayle (1995)
A humorous book, written with quintessential Mayle wit, about Provence through the eyes of a dog.
Confessions of a French Baker by Peter Mayle and Gerard Auzet (2005)
This small read was inspired by the proprietor of Mayle’s favorite boulangerie--or perhaps more aptly the bread he makes--and it is full of information about the art of bread making, including recipes. Monsieur Auzet’s bakery is in Cavaillon, about a half-hour from Lourmarin (and well worth a visit!).
Tour de Provence by Julian More (2003)
This is a detailed and inspired travel diary of More’s circuitous tour through the south of France, complete with lovely photographs and great sightseeing advice.
I love the opening paragraph: "Even the longest lasting love affairs need a booster from time to time. And mine with Provence, which was already forty years old, called for more than the traveler’s equivalent of a dozen oysters or ginseng; nothing but a complete second honeymoon would do." With those thoughts in mind, More travels along the small "D roads" taking in the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes in his beloved Provence.
My Father’s Glory and
My Mother’s Castle by Marcel Pagnol (1957)
Pagnol was a well-known Provençal author of the mid-20th century who wrote of his region in novels, plays, and films peopled with quintessential Provençal characters.
These books have been translated into English. I have not read either one, but have seen--and enjoyed--the films based on these two works. These two works are largely autobiographical.
Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring by Marcel Pagnol (1963)
Pagnol was a well-known Provençal author of the mid-20th century who wrote of his region in novels, plays, and films peopled with quintessential Provençal characters. These books have been translated into English. I have not read either one, but have seen--and loved--the films based on these two works.
Travels with Alice by Calvin Trillin (1989)
I love the way this man writes. Here, Trillin, a long-time writer for The New Yorker and author of an impressive list of books, writes about his travels in Provence with his wife, Alice, and their two teenage daughters.
A Literary Guide to Provence by Daniel Vitaglione (2001)
This is a travel guide of Provence as seen through the writings of the authors who lived in and have traveled throughout the area. Very interesting and informative.
Travelers’ Tales Provence edited by James O’Reilly and Tara Austen Weaver (2003)
This is a collection of writings by different writers about Provence, most of which describe in evocative detail how and why this region speaks to them. It can be read from cover to cover or haphazardly, but those who love Provence will read some pieces again and again.