Archive for the ‘Book’ Category

The bells at the cathedral in Aix rang out at 3pm, 100 years ago today, after 1561 days of silence, to mark the end of the fighting.  And by 6pm, the crowds were at the Rotonde to celebrate.

Of the 3000 men mobilised from Aix, 720 were dead, 190 disappeared and 500 left disabled. The story didn’t even end here for those left in the north of France. Despite having been away for four long years, the local regiment was involved in occupation and didn’t arrive back in town until 2nd September 1919.  What a homecoming that must have been.

But when I was writing my book (Aix-en-Provence: The Inside Story) and researching the chapter on the effect of World War 1 on Aix, itIMG_7013 seemed that there was some sort of controversy surrounding the troops from Provence but I couldn’t find details.

Then came ‘La Faute au Midi’, a new book and exhibition, which told it all and it was truly an appalling story.

Here is my post from 2014:


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…or rats du bibliotheque as the French call us!  If you are impatiently waiting to listen to Nobel prize-winner Orhan Pamuk at the Fete du Livre (https://aixcentric.com/2018/09/01/aix-fete-du-livre-and-journees-du-patrimoine/), you may be interested to know that there is a free talk, on his rapport with his home city of Istanbul, at 18:30 on 19th September, at the Cité du Livres in Aix.  In French. Thanks to Caroline for this info.

September sees the rentrée for the Book-in-Bar bookgroup who will be discussing ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ by Ruth Hogan: this is her first novel and  has been warmly welcomed for its touching and funny narrative.  At Book-in-Bar, rue Joseph Cabassol, Aix, 27th September, 17:30.

And finally, the new James Bond novel is out – and it’s set in Marseille!  Bond has to contend with, ‘a tremendously corpulent Corsican drug-dealer named Scipio. “I have total control here in Marseille,” he announces villainously. “The port, the city, the police, the justice system? It is all mine!”’. (See Guardian review: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/may/23/forever-and-a-day-anthony-horowitz-review).  ‘Forever and a Day’ is by Anthony Horowitz, currently just in hardback.


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Looking ahead a little, I have learned that the ‘Invité d’Honneur’ this year is to be Nobel prize winner, Turkish author, Orhan Pamuk. (more…)

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…..is my new book which is being launched this week. (more…)

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An English Book-sale and a puppet show featuring La Reine des Neiges!



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In the UK, 2018 is the centenary of winning Votes for Women: the suffrage campaign finally won through! Women over 30 (or at least the great majority of them) finally won the right to vote in parliamentary elections; women over the age of 21 had to wait until 1928 to gain full equal voting rights with men.

Suffragists relied on constitutional tactics (keeping within the law), while suffragettes took militant action, often resulting in imprisonment.

Next week, British academic Jill Liddington will be at Book in Bar in Aix giving what will no doubt be an impassioned account of this struggle:  Jill was Reader in Gender History at Leeds University and is currently an Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies. She specialises in the actions of women in the north of England, often working class and somewhat side lined by historians in favour of better-known activists in London.  Her book ‘Rebel Girls’ profiles some of these courageous northern women.

Her book, ‘Histoire des suffragistes radicales’, was published here in France last month.

This is a free talk – not to be missed!


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Provence.  Its powerful image enchants people worldwide, and many, inspired by the wonderful Peter Mayle, actually come to live here; and also, inspired by ‘A Year in Provence’ decide that they too have a story to tell.  Most are remarkably different. Some arrive to transform crumbling chateaux, with either lots of money or their own bare hands; others take on olive groves, b&bs, camp-sites, tea-shops, book-shops; all have different ways of tackling French and the challenges of  life here….giving us a wide variety of narratives.

‘Passion for Provence’ which has just been published is a memoir from Gayle Smith Padgett who uses  her experiences to draw 22 key lessons, designed to lead to full enjoyment of ‘La Belle Vie’.

Based in Germany, she and her fellow-American husband Ralph, chose Provence for a delayed honeymoon.  The attraction was instant. ‘Though retirement was a long way off, the Provencal spell had been cast’.

Two decades later, the couple moved south…but where to settle?  Gayle entertains  her readers with stories of house-sitting in different areas, good for local knowledge, not so good for coping with wayward cats.  After a flirtation with Aix, they settled in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, close to a variety of  biking trails and also the Camargue for bird-watcher Ralph. The book takes us through tough times such as Ralph’s hospitalisation and their experience of the French medical system; but also provides lots of fun as the couple make friends, entertain and discover Porquerolles, Villefranche, and Aix itself. Grappling with the complexity of French automated post offices, locating loos, and coping when the wheels were stolen from their car, all make entertaining anecdotal reading.

The major challenge though was gaining 10-year residency which entails Gayle passing DILF, the compulsory language test.  Where could she take it? What did it entail?  Not always easy to find out. The final chapters describing the process, while amusingly written, will surely be helpful to many readers.

Will Gayle get her residency? Will Ralph ever spot that elusive Grand Duc owl?

This is a very readable narrative written with wry humour and clear love for France and the French. It’s recommended for those thinking about a move, but also provides interesting observations and insights for those of us already in Provence.

You can find ‘Passion for Provence’ in Book in Bar or online via Amazon.



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