Review published on January 18, 2018.
I’ve read – with varying degrees of enjoyment – quite a few books about people going to live in France, probably starting with A Year in Provence. My favourites have been those where the authors have started a new life running a vineyard or an olive farm. In this book Paul, a young Canadian, has to go to France to work for a year and chooses to base himself in a beautiful medieval village in Provence. Here he becomes fascinated by the game he sees the locals playing in the village square. We then get rather a lot about the rules of petanque, the difficulties of learning to play and being accepted by the local people, and even the ins and outs of buying his own set of boules.
I did enjoy his observations about the local characters and their attitude to life and Paul comes over as a likeable young man with a keen sense of humour and the ability to laugh at himself. And unlike some other books you don’t feel that the author is poking fun at the locals in a superior way but rather that he respects the local culture and people and wants to be accepted.
From the title I had expected more about wine and perhaps the difficulties of learning to speak French. I appreciate that he is using the game of petanque as an entry point into French culture but really for me there is too much about it and not enough about other aspects. It also seems rather odd that although it is a recent book, the year he spent there was actually in the late 1990s. It is an interesting memoir but didn’t leave me wanting to go and explore the South of France as several other books have done.
Berwyn Peet 2/1
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Sea to Sky Books 9780981347417 pbk Mar 2017
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