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Posts Tagged ‘Le Beausset’

I have been immersed all weekend in this new book which has the most deceptive cover.

It isn’t one of those ”bought-an-old-wreck-in-Provence, planted-lavender-and-olive-trees, met-the-locals-aren’t-they-entertaining” kind of books that have saturated the market.

This is a memoir by Gully Wells, daughter of Americans – an abrasive journalist mother Dee Wells and a genial diplomat father, with a big contribution from stepfather Oxford Professor Sir A J Ayer – Freddie. She was brought up in Primrose Hill, London, in a charmed circle of left-wing politicians, academics and writers – Hugh Gaitskell, Roy Jenkins, Iris Murdoch, Bobby Kennedy, Bertrand Russell, Levi-Strauss, and assorted dukes  – wander in and out of her story.

The house in France where the family and assorted guests spent their summers is at Le Beausett, near Bandol, and she has splendid descriptions of life in Provence, including visiting the cours Mirabeau – ‘the most beautiful street in France’.  Their nearest beach was Les Lecques and there they all went to swim: the tanned and topless locals beside the eminent philosopher Freddie in his droopy British shorts with underpants protruding and her lover Martin Amis in chiffon flowery shirt, trunks and snakeskin boots. 

This is a sharp and witty autobiography from someone brought up in an intellectually-charged milieu, surrounded by people who were fascinating but totally self-absorbed and lacking any empathy with those around them. Despite this, and despite arms-length parenting, Gully Wells survived it all, and emerges as a skilled raconteur, balanced wife and mother, and successful journalist for Condé Nast Traveler magazine.  A good gossipy read.

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