on November 3, 2008
This book certainly follows the pattern of a year in Provence with an up-close and in-depth look at the rural culture of a town in provence. The book, however, starts off in London where the life of the hero, Max has just fallen apart. His friend, Charlie, helps him travel to the warmer, more exotic environs of southern Provence where the weather is warmer and the people somewhat strange and mysterious. He takes up residence in the house of his uncle which sits on a vineyard that produces a wine of horrific qualities. The story takes off from there into a tangled but fascinating whirlwind of romance, crime, boutique wineries, local culinary customs and some rather unique, local personalities. Mayle peppers the story with witticisms that add extra life to the story...a good read.
on July 7, 2004
A Good Year is the first I've read by Peter Mayle. I did not know that it had been headed to Hollywood, but one certainly suspects it. The book reads like a screenplay. Colorful characters, enchanting settings and whimsical plotline set up perfectly for a 110 minute trip to southern France on the big screen. After sailing through a very light 287 pages, I feel I've been 'en vacances.'
Descending upon the tiny village of Saint Pons for the summer are: Max Skinner, our hero who has been tossed out of his financial job in London, but immediately inherits a house with vineyard, Le Griffon, in Provence; Christie, a Californian cousin with a possible claim to the beautiful property; and Charlie, brother-in-law and money lender to Max. They join the locals: Monsieur Rousseau, caretaker to the vineyard; Fanny, a temptingly beautiful restaurant owner; Nathalie Auzet, the fashionable local notary; and Madame Passepartout, the matronly housekeeper and village gossip.
The storyline bounces from meal to meal, as nothing happens unless accompanied by sausages, paté, tarte aux pommes, pastis, marc and plenty of red wine. Meals at the village café, at the restaurant, at Le Griffon, and most magnificently at the Rousseau home are described in succulent detail. Evidently, someone is getting wealthy from mysteriously grown grapevines at the far, dusty edge of the property, and therein lies the plot. An ex-advertising executive, Mayle pokes good fun at the culture of wine marketing.
Further coloring the screenplay are the budding romances and the ultimate question of will Max make Le Griffon his home and livelihood. Hardly suspenseful, but what summer vacation is?
on July 5, 2004
If a trip to the South of France doesn't fit into this summer's budget, head to your bookstore instead, for copy of Peter Mayle's latest look at the charms and the foibles of the French. Max Skinner, a thirty-something Englishman struggling to make his way in London's shark-like financial world, loses his job and conveniently receives a surprise inheritance. Max's elderly English uncle, Henry has died bequeathing to Max a modest and somewhat decrepit chateau and vineyard. In his childhood Max had spent summers with good old uncle Henry, and now as Henry's supposedly only heir, Henry has left it all to Max. And just in time too to head off financial disaster after Max is fired, and to rescue him from the ghastly London weather. Max heads off to the south of France to check out the state of his inheritance, and along the way meets a taciturn farmhand, a lovely notaire, a gorgeous local restaurant owner, and a California Napa valley girl who may or may not be Uncle Henry's love child, thus complicating the inheritance picture. Max wants to get the vineyard up and running, and to add to the fun encounters a vineyard mystery. Someone is hiding the fact that a portion of the vineyard produces outstanding wine. But where are the profits going? Who is covering up the fact and cooking the books? All gets unraveled in the end, and we are treated to a charming look at the French and their habits (descriptions of wine tastings and local cuisine abound), and some well-placed jibes at the English and the American character as well as the wine industry. Light-hearted, charming and fun, a perfect novel to enjoy this summer.
on July 1, 2004
I am a devoted fan of Peter Mayle and always look forward to his next work. I am a frequent traveler to Provence as well and know most, if not all, of the non fictional places he refers to in his books. Reading Mayle is a pleasant reminder of the south of France. In past books, he has excelled in character development, devotion to detail and his obvious passion for his Provencal subjects.
Sadly, most of that is lacking in A Good Year. The plot is as thin as a watered-down Rhone, his characters as underdeveloped as June Pinot Noir. His affinity for Provence still shines through but other than a recipe for vinaigrette and a few brief mentions of French food here and there, this tale could as easily have unfolded in Spain or Chile or New Zealand - just rearrange the names.
Mayle has enjoyed, at least in my small opinion, a distinct advantage over Frances Mayes and her "Under the Tuscan Sun" series. He understands characters and character development. While Mayes focuses on a sense of place with incidental characters Mayle develops his characters intertwined with a sense of place.
None of that development occurs in A Good Year. This ultra light weight novel is so wafer thin from cover to cover one would think that Mayle wrote it in his sleep, it simply has no legs. I cannot imagine this novel being transcribed into a motion picture, yet, apparently, that is what is going to transpire.
on June 12, 2004
Peter Mayle's novel about a man who leaves his high-stress job in London for an inherited vineyard in southern France is not a great book, but it is a good enough story to enjoy, especially for light summer reading.
Max Skinner has had enough of the rat race in London and quits his job in the financial world. Conveniently enough, his uncle has passed away and left him a small vineyard in the south of France. Max heads south to check it out, and finds a small chateau with a small vinyard that makes terrible wine. Or does it? A second heir suddenly arrives, and the plot thickens when it is discovered that a second wine is made from a small patch at the vineyard. The story is hardly a thriller, it simply meanders along lazily, much the same as the days and the lives that Mayle describes.
I have no complaints about this book. I enjoyed it, and didn't take long to finish. This certainly isn't a dissertation on life's meaning, and everything in the book falls together just a little too conveniently, but Mayle's manner of writing about Provence conveys just the right tone; the kind of laid-back life in paradise that makes the region such a popular destination. It's not a thrill-a-minute, but it is a good, relaxing read.
on June 1, 2004
I am a native of Provence, so I love the novels of Peter Mayle (I've read everything he's ever published) and I see, no doubt more clearly than most, how wonderfully they capture the essence of the Provence of the Lubéron. I find Mayle's novels breezy, lighthearted fun and I know they are sure to bring a smile to my face no matter how I'm feeling. Mayle's fifth novel, A GOOD YEAR, is, I think, his very best. Like all novelists, Mayle, in his early novels, had a tendency at times to create too many characters and subplots simply to ratchet up the suspense. This is a common problem but it certainly is nowhere to be found in A GOOD YEAR.
A GOOD YEAR centers on failed London financier Max Skinner. Just when Max is wondering what on earth he is going to do next, he finds he has inherited a Provençal vineyard from his Uncle Henry. Max, who remembers idyllic summers spent at Le Griffon, wants very much to start afresh in Provence but one thing is stopping him...money. That hurdle is soon overcome when his ex-brother-in-law, Charlie, loans him the money to make Le Griffon's vineyard viable once again.
Arriving in Provence, Max finds Le Griffon in worse shape than he could have ever imagined and, surprisingly, its wine cellar is filled with bottles of a totally undrinkable vintage. Max decides to go ahead with his plans for renovations and appeals to Le Griffon's caretaker, Claude Roussel and its housekeeper, Madame Passepartout who are, much to Max's consternation, quite uncooperative. And what is going on with Nathalie Auzet? (Anyone familiar with the writing of Peter Mayle will remember his wonderful description of Chez Auzet in the town of Cavaillon, a boulangerie I've visited often.) Life, however, eventually settles down and Max finds himself almost happy. Then, of course, disaster occurs.
This time "disaster" arrives from California in the form of Uncle Henry's daughter, Christie Roberts. Charlie also arrives at Le Griffon and the three get caught up in a scandal involving a wonderful, but somewhat mysterious, wine known as Le Coin Perdu.
A GOOD YEAR is a more straightforward story than some of Mayle's previous novels, ANYTHING CONSIDERED, especially, but it is wonderful, lighthearted fun and Mayle writes with an intimate knowledge, appreciation and love of Provence and its inhabitants and well as its viniculture. Although I would have liked to have seen a little more "heft" to the story, I still think this is Mayle's "cleanest" and best novel to date. I only hope the film version will remain true to the book and not "ruin" it the way Frances Mayes' delightful UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN was butchered. Mayle (and Mayes) certainly deserve better than that.
A GOOD YEAR isn't for those looking for life-altering, deeply insightful literary fiction, but it is a book that make all but the most hard-hearted smile and for those who know and love Provence, like I do, it is essential reading. A GOOD YEAR is certainly vintage Mayle, and I think it's vintage Mayle at his very best. I hope there's a lot more to come.
on November 9, 2012
I am a big fan of Peter Mayle and so , for this reason alone I can only tell you how disappointing this book was for me.
This book has nothing to offer; it has the depth that only a juvenile reader could actually be happy with.
The characters are so superficial it makes you wonder if this book wasn't written for a teenage target kind of audience.
And the story.... please! it hurts just to think about how naive the whole plot was....
This book has the feel of "I must write another book because this is in my contract" ...
I have no idea how anybody could enjoy this piece of work from the "master of Provence"
I haven't read the other work of fiction from Peter Mayle and I sure will avoid them
on June 10, 2004
Once again Peter Mayle writes what he knows -- in this story a 30-something, burned-out, over-drafted London businessman inherits a winery in Provence, chucks the rat race and embraces a simpler life. Amusing complications arise, of course, but they're dealt with so easily they're hardly worthy of the term "plot device". It IS a very pleasant read, funny in spots, and our hero is charming, but it's also less than Mayle has delivered in the past. Bottomline: A quick, charming read without much oomph! to it, and certainly not worth buying in hardcover.
on April 6, 2007
What has happened to Peter Mayle? From the triumphs of A Year in Provence and Hotel Pastis, he has descended to the depths of churning his earlier books. A Good Year simply recycles characters and text. There are so many sentences copied nearly verbatim from earlier works that I had the impression that I had read the book before.
I thought that Chasing Cezanne was scraping the bottom of the barrel, but this takes scraping to new lengths.
Absolute rubbish - avoid at all costs.
on June 17, 2004
While still a lighthearted, fun read, this book disappoints on many levels. Too much focus on plot, not enough on the characters. Why hadn't Max seen his uncle in years? And was the California cousin really necessary? It would have been more interesting for Max to figure out the deception on his own. And the scant attention paid to the sting operation and the criminals' impluasibly quick exit left much to be desired. For a much better Mayle novel of this type, read Chasing Cezanne.