French Language Blog

Peter Mayle doesn’t have a monopoly! Posted by on Aug 30, 2016 in Culture

I just finished reading Peter Mayle’s wonderful “A Year in Provence” . . . only 25 or so years after it came out. It’s a lovely book, but I think I was avoiding it! Anytime anyone hears about my time in France they always ask “have you read . . . ?” which weirdly kept me away.


Mr. Mayle has written a number of books about or inspired by his time in the south of France, and if they’re all as charming as “A Year in Provence”, I’m sure they’d be a lovely read. But if like me, you’ve been avoiding him, but you still want to find some good reads that will put you in that French state of mind, here are some of my favorites.

My Life in France – Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme

Written with the help of her great nephew, My Life in France recounts how Julia went from not-so-average wife to world famous cookbook author and life-long lover of France, the French, and above all, French cuisine. The book – which served as inspiration for half of the film Julie and Julia – takes you on a journey from Paris to the south of France and all the sights, sounds, and flavors in between.

The Olive Farm – Carol Drinkwater

Before becoming an author, Carol Drinkwater was a successful actress in television and film (some readers might remember her from the BBC series All Creatures Great and Small). With some of the money she earned, she and her husband purchased a home in the south of France and turned it – through much love and hard work . . . and a few twists and turns – into their dream home . . . and a working olive farm!

The Sweet Life in Paris – David Lebovitz

This is a must read for anyone who loves Paris . . . and food! David is a professional baker with a keen observational eye and a wicked sense of humor. He is able to perfectly capture so many of the quirkier aspects of French living . . . and he ends every chapter with a recipe! What more can you ask for. David also has a great blog of his own that includes more recipes and updates about the latest in Paris food and goings-on.

And finally, a book (or a series for those who want even more) from Stephen Clarke, the “Anti-Mayle” according to some. Mr. Clarke’s very funny series recounts his “semi-autobiographical exploits” (trust me, not all of this can possibly be true!) living, working, and loving (or trying to!) in the French capital.

I love all the entries in this list of recommendations, but for pure fun and laughter, Mr. Clarke’s books are far and away the most enjoyable of the bunch.

Et vous? Have you read any of these books? Which is/are your favorites? What other English-language books do you love about France? Share your thoughts in the comments below. I’m always looking for new books to read.

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Since my first trip to France at 16, I have been a passionate francophile. I love the language, food, music, art, people, and more that make France and la Francophonie in general such an amazing part of our global community. Having lived in France and studied the language and culture for over 35 years, it is my great pleasure to be able to share a little bit of my deep love with you through this blog.


  1. L:

    I have enjoyed almost all Mr. Mayle’s books. I think I like the nonfiction books the best, about his life and experiences in the south of France. They make me smile and even laugh out loud. His turn of phrase is exquisite.

  2. Michael La Vean:

    An Englishman in the Midi by John Harris

    I personally enjoyed this book more than the others listed.

    It was well written with none of the veiled “I love France but hate the French” which is sometimes barely concealed by other authors.

    I lived in France more than 9 years and I find that a lot of the “problems” that the English have with the French are either based in the their inherent dis like of the French or the fact that they have no money.

    For example: complaints about the French heating systems have nothing to do with them being French but rather with the fact that they are allocating a hundred dollars a month to heat their house in January.

    I have rented and have owned a house and I had none of the problems described. But then I could afford to pay the plumbers and electricians. If you can pay cash it is amazing how fast everyone shows up…if you haggle and try to barter or ask to billed….guess what the person with the cash jumps to the head of the line.

    Prices for professionals are comparable to those in the US so we are not talking outlandish prices.

    An Englishman in the Midi is more about trying to fit in with than make fun of the French.

    One example of this was France Magazine wanted to place their magazine in the Franco American Institute in RENNES (the magazine at the time had an office in RENNES).

    The had a regular feature which was basically send us your example of how stupid the French are. English usage was one of their favorites. The current issue when they came to the Institute had an article with pictures of the store the Athlete’s Foot. Big article with lots of snickering and tee hees about how the stupid French were to name a store after disease.

    We explained that the Athlete’s Foot was a publicly traded American company and that just because it was not British English it did not make it wrong. We then went on to remind them that American is precise while British is concise.

    We declined to carry their magazine in the library because of its anti French sentiment.

  3. Mary M.:

    I read so much about living in Paris and France! I liked “Lunch in Paris” by Elizabeth Bard. It is a lovely romance and a sequel is out. I also liked “Paris in Love” which is not a romance, but a delightful story of a family that lives in Paris for a year. The author is Eloisa James. “Into a Paris Quartier” is about living in the St. Germain-des-Pres area of Paris, and is written by Diane Johnson , author of “Le Divorce” and “L’affaire.”