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, but it was Mayle’s descriptions of bumbling through a home renovation in the arrière-pays (translation: backcountry or hinterland) that shifted our view beyond the coastline. This book was published in 1989, so clearly Mayle was far from the first to write about the region. However, the timing of his book and the humorous descriptions of expat living in Provence resulting in skyrocket 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 are reflections on the attraction of cultural differences.


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


Elizabeth Bard’s Picnic in Provence, A Memoir with Recipes 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.


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 in rural, northern France taking care of chickens and ducks. My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural Dream starts with an innocent day-trip to France, to fill their car with some 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 last 25-years of his life. 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. Here, is the backstory on 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 expats 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.


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

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


Mary-Lou Weissman is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author.  Writing for over thirty-five years she has a number of published 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 wonderful encounters in Provence. Enjoy!