Archive for the ‘Book’ Category

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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Being the first Sunday of the month, there is free access to public museums in Aix and the Musée Granet is adding a programme of music (more…)

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Last summer saw the bi-centenary of Jane Austen’s death; there were events and celebrations across England.  Visiting friends in Winchester in the summer, (more…)

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The Death of Peter Mayle

What sad news to wake up to today. Peter Mayle, the author best known for writing ‘A Year in Provence’, has died in hospital near his home village of Vaugines.

In fact I had just posted this week about visiting his favourite restaurant in Marseille which had prompted me to pick up ‘A Year in Provence’ to reread a few chapters.

Peter Mayle in Lourmarin, Provence in 2006.
Peter Mayle in Lourmarin, Provence in 2006. Photograph: Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

This book inspired an entire genre of Provence-themed memoirs but he really was the godfather of them all.  His descriptions, so incisive and witty, were the product of his skill as an advertising man, added to a benign nature that saw the best in people and places.  His work is always optimistic and sunny, capturing the imagination of the millions who bought his books.

In true advertising tradition, he crafted his product, Provence, giving it an image and personality that so appealed to holiday-makers and people looking for a new life. No wonder the French made him Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur in 2002.

He was 78.  A sad loss.



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Surviving Provence is a humorous account of the people (and animals) who share author Barbara Farber’s  daily life in the South of France.  It is a far cry, she explains, from an ode to lavender and sunflowers.

She writes: “Although my husband and I were both born in the United States, we have spent the greater part of our lives in Europe, mostly in The Netherlands. Leaving our working years and Amsterdam behind us, we settled into our huge white elephant of a house in Provence. 

The house is the star of the book.  It has been a setting for TV soup commercials, oversized women’s clothes for a Swiss mail order catalogue, and fashion photography of very chic men’s underwear with a sexy Los Angeles male model, who posed in very minimal shorts, outside in November, smiling and shivering the whole time.  The newest model of Peugeot was unveiled on our terrace.  Several TV series, almost always involving a murder or kidnapping, brought film crews for weeks.

The first chapter, The House, tells an intriguing, bizarre and, sometimes, sad tale of this old house we now live in as the first non-family member.  It recounts how we came to buy it, the history of the family, the role it played during the Vichy regime and it’s super-natural vibes.

Of course food and wine play an important role.  The French have very precise eating and drinking habits, quite different from our Anglo-Saxon ways.  There are no restaurant recommendations, only wonderful Provençal recipes and descriptions of disastrous dinner parties, mine, as well as some to which we have been invited.

 “The chapter Social life gives a funny twist to relations with the local garage mechanic, the post office lady, the chicken vendor at the weekly market, the pharmacist, our wine producing neighbour, hunters, beekeepers, and the  sympathetic veterinarian.”  Barbara includes anecdotes on her local plumber with his use of “quaint” Provençal expletives,  super sensitive shutter painters, a tree cutter who talks to their plane trees and a very Zen gardener, all  described with a sympathetic eye to their follies and foibles.

All aspects of living in Provence are described: “Rabbits and wild boars destroy our well-manicured grass.  The post office lady in her yellow car gives cookies to our three dogs when she delivers our mail.  A small dog drinks beer at a local café with his master.”

The author:  Barbara Farber was born in New Jersey, USA but has spent most of her life in Europe.  She has lived in Brussels, Zurich and for 35 years in Amsterdam where she founded a contemporary art gallery.   After moving to Provence, she continued to be involved with art as a collector.  She has written numerous articles for various magazines.  This is her first book.

‘Surviving Provence’ is available from Book-in-Bar in rue Joseph Cabassol, Aix, and will shortly be listed on Amazon.
















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