Memoirs Inspired by Provence

For many, Peter Mayle’s best-selling novel A Year in Provence was their introduction to the Provencal countryside. Images of the Côte d’Azur have long covered the pages of travel magazines. Still, Mayle’s descriptions of bumbling through a home renovation in the arrière-pays (translation: backcountry or hinterland) shifted our view beyond the coastline. This book was published in 1989, so Mayle was far from the first to write about the region. However, the timing of his book and the humorous descriptions of expats living in Provence resulted in skyrocketing sales.

The following are memoirs inspired by those who have chosen to settle in Provence for a period. What is appealing about these books is that the authors have all visited more or less the same geography, yet each story is different. Some are humour-filled tales of expats trying to fit in, and others reflect the attraction of cultural differences.

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The Provence Book: A Guide, with Fables by Huntley Baldwin was published posthumously in 2011.

Please read his interesting backstory here and our review of the book here.

The Provence Book Memoirs

Picnic in Provence, A Memoir with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard is the story of how (and why) an art historian from New York and a Frenchman with a Ph.D. in computer science, turned film executive, end up in small-town Provence. Here is our review of this delightful book.

Kristin Espinasse is a writer with a talent for spotting life’s lessons in daily encounters and putting those experiences into words. The book’s chapters weave through the realities of being a mother, wife, and daughter living in an adopted country with different rules, cultural norms and language nuances. Blossoming in Provence is a sequence of short stories with plenty of French vocabulary.

Book Blossoming in Provence

Building on the success of her website, Janine Marsh published her memoir in 2017. It is the backstory of how she and her husband, Mark, ended up caring for chickens and ducks in rural northern France. My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream starts with an innocent day trip to France to fill their car with French wine and cheese before returning to England on the ferry. Please follow this link to read our book review.

Peter Mayle kept us entertained for years. His last book is a collection of short vignettes and his musings on living in the South of France for the previous 25 years of his life. It was published posthumously in June 2018. Here is our book review.

As a 30-something, Paul Shore seized the opportunity to settle into life on the French Riviera for 12 months. Shore was a curious traveller with a corporate assignment to establish a branch office in Nice, France, for his employer, a Vancouver-based technology start-up. Sounds like a dream job? Here is our book review.

Anne-Marie Simons: Although she covered the race car circuit for much of her journalistic career, it was hardly a sprint back to Europe—Simon’s journey from the Formula One circuit to her blog, Provence Today. Published in 2011, Simon’s memoir Taking Root in Provence describes the couple’s decision-making process that led them to Aix-en-Provence.

American expat Gayle Smith Padgett and her husband Ralph worked in Heidelberg, Germany, for two decades. They decided to choose Provence for their retirement. Padgett’s first book, Passion for Provence: 22 Keys to La Belle Vie, is a lighthearted memoir. Here is our review of Padgett’s book.

Passion for Provence Book Gayle Smith Padgett

After 20 visits to Provence, Keith Van Sickle and his wife Val decided to make Provence their part-time home. Please read our review of One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence.

blankOne Sip at a Time Book by Keith Van Sickle

In December 2018, Keith published his second book, Are We French Yet? Keith & Val’s Adventures in Provence. This book continues the story of a couple determined to live part-time in France. Please read our review of the book.

Keith Van Sickle Book Are We French Yet

Mary-Lou Weissman is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author. She has written for over thirty-five years and has published several books and articles in many magazines. Read about Mary-Lou and an excerpt from her book here.

Playing House in Provence: How Two Americans Became a Little Bit French is a delightful memoir. The Weismans arrived in Provence in September 2003 for the first of several visits to the region. This couple was not content to simply visit as tourists; they wanted to experience Provence on a deeper level. Published in 2017, this memoir traces some of their experiences, missteps and beautiful encounters in Provence. Enjoy!blank

Nicholas Woodsworth wrote Seeking Provence, Old Myths, New Paths about his lifestyle transition that began with a “Career Discussion.” The book starts with meeting his new boss at the newspaper’s headquarters in London, England, and then moves on to life in Aix-en-Provence. Woodsworth was not enthusiastic about the unanticipated leave of absence and permanent relocation to Provence. Regardless of whether you have visited the South of France, this book explores roads less travelled in the region and challenges at life’s crossroads.

blankBook Review Seeking Provence