Thursday, November 7, 2013
Sometimes I just want to read something that makes me smile. Something lightweight but not disposable, a book in which I can immerse myself and imagine that I'm not riding a commuter train in the dark both to and from work. A book where I can feel the sunshine and taste the multi-hour meals. When I'm in that sort of mood, I reach for Peter Mayle. After careers in advertising and educational books (he wrote the "where did I come from?" books my grade school teachers used for introductory sex ed), Mayle moved to Provence in the late 80s and chronicled his year of renovation. More travelogues followed, and then Hotel Pastis. It's about a recently divorced ad man named Simon Shaw who falls in love both with Provence and a woman with whom he opens a hotel. Oh, and there's a gang of bank robbers disguised as a cycling team doing training runs, and the son of Simon's former firm's biggest client who's not sure if he wants to win the Tour de France or earn three Michelin stars. Add in an extremely competent assistant, an old man with a high ladder, an ex-wife who reappears every few months, avaricious fellow ad men, a disreputable relative, assorted tourists, a sour-tempered "journalist," the mayor's beautiful daughter, a commanding female chef, and a bull terrier, season with lavender, basil, and champagne, and sit back. It's a pleasant vacation disguised as a 380-page paperback, and place to revisit every few years.