Saturday 3 June 2017

Reading France

So. I'm on rather a French kick at the moment, and it shows no sign of abating, so this naturally involves books set in La Belle France. First up, book 4 of Martin O'Brien's series, Jacquot and the Angel.

The death of an entire German Family, elderly father and mother, their daughter and her daughter, living in Provence involves Daniel Jacquot in one of the most complicated cases of his career. The elderly father, Dr. Martner, is a grower and authority on orchids. He is also old enough to have been involved in WW2 and many older local French villagers have very long memories. A young local man is arrested for the murders but something nags at Jacquot about the arrest. Into the picture comes Marie-Ange to run the florist shop while the the parents of the arrested man support him during his trial. Who is she really? And can she help Jacquot solve this most brutal of cases?

Funny how the first one or two of most new crime series can be a bit iffy... it's only natural for an author to need to get into his or her stride. It's not always the case though and it's not here. Martin O'Brien hit his stride from the start of the very first book, Jacquot and the Waterman and has simply not wavered at all. This is book four and wow is it superb read. I loved the WW2 connections, details about the French Resistance seemed spot on and life in France during the war was very much brought to life. But the author is also fantastic on modern-day France. Lots of detail about the countryside, the seasons, the food, the villages, the idiosyncracies of its people. Wonderful. I honestly can't praise the series enough and happily gave Jacquot and the Angel a five star rating on Goodreads - no question about it at all. Jacquot and the Angel is my book 11 for Bev'sMount TBr 2017 challenge.

Next up a non-fiction, A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle.

I think I must be last person on the planet not to have read this hugely famous book by Peter Mayle. I've had plenty of time to ignore it as it was written in 1989! I do believe though that your time to read certain books is not always the same as everyone else's and clearly now was my time for A Year in Provence. The format is very simple, a chapter is devoted to every year of the author's first year living in France. The trials and the tribulations include the work on his house and difficulties getting workmen to finish a job, the bureaucracy, the language, The Mistral. But of course these are all outweighed by the joys of the landscape, the food, getting to know his neighbours and learning about the French culture. I have to say, like many others before me, I loved this book to bits. And I didn't expect to. It's so famous, iconic really, and I often don't care for these iconic books that everyone loves. I've heard it's the first book about Brits going to live in France, though I'm not sure that's actually the case. Certainly I gather it began a huge migration of Brits to France, beguiled by Mayle's descriptions of the rural Provence lifestyle. Oddly, both this book and the previous Jacquot book are set in the same area - Cavaillon - I think I'm going to have Google the town and see some actual pictures of it and the surrounding Luberon mountains. Anyway, super super book, atmospheric, descriptive and very funny. I think there are more books about Provence by Peter Mayle so will definitely keep an eye out. Another five star book.

Next, Flirting with French: Adventures in Pursuit of a Language by William Alexander.

The author, William Alexander, is American but he would desperately like to be French. The key, he believes, is becoming fluent in the language of the country he is so in love with. But this is easier said than done - naturally. French is not known as one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn for nothing. All that conjugating of verbs and loads of rules to be learnt. And everything but everything is masculine (le) or feminine (la), even inanimate objects, so all these have to be learnt as well. He gets himself into a right pickle and despairs of ever getting a handle on the language. He tries everything, various online language tools, audio courses, adult classes, social networking, immersion classes and two weeks at a language school in Provence. The results are very interesting indeed. He's quite hard on himself I think, although he does make a bit of a meal of the whole process... I did find it a trifle agonising *but* extremely funny and rather informative about language and how we learn. I had to give this yet another five star rating as it was so entertaining quite frankly.



BooksPlease said...

They all sound excellent books - but you're not the last person not to have read A Year in Provence. Some years ago I couldn't read enough about life in Tuscany but I didn't get the urge to read about Provence - so maybe my time to read Mayle's book is still in the future!

Cath said...

Margaret: These strange urges to read about certain areas come upon us sometimes don't they? I'm at a loss to explain it as I'm not really a Francophile although I've been to France on 3 or 4 occasions visiting my late sister-in-law and her husband. (Sadly, they passed away within 2 years of each other.) It's a beautiful country but my French is of the schoolgirl variety and we struggle a bit. I'd quite like to rectify that and maybe give the country another chance at some stage.

Do give Mayle's book a chance one day... it's very funny and well worth it.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Cath,

I have to admit that I don't tend to cluster read books which are time, place, season, or even series relevant.

These days it is more the case of reading whichever book I have promised publishers or authors publicity for, so long as it is in a genre I enjoy reading of course! - I just can't seem to say 'no'!

I haven't come across Martin O'Brien before and I kind of wish you hadn't pointed me in the direction of this great sounding series - that's three more added to my 'Want To Read' list ...

Seriously, the books do sound good and thanks for sharing :)


Cath said...

Hi Yvonne. I don't normally read books in clusters like that either. It's quite odd for me. But I'm so enjoying the French books that I feel like I might as well run with it until it runs its course.

I found I didn't have enough time to read my own books so in the end I had to say 'no' or we would have drowned under the weight of my books.

Sorry about the Martin O'Brien books but if you ever do get to them I don't think you'll be sorry.

My pleasure. Thanks so much for stopping by.

TracyK said...

I don't remember hearing about the Martin O'Brien books either, but with such a high recommendation I will have to find the first one.

Cath said...

Tracy: The Martin O'Brien books are not terribly well known. Which is a shame because they're really well written with good plots and characters.

TracyK said...

I can get them here but it takes some looking. I will check the book sale that is coming up, if no luck there, I will go online. The only drawback for me is that these all seem to be longer than I like, but if the writing is good, that should not matter.

Vintage Reading said...

Gosh I'd forgotten about A Year in Provence, I must have read it when it came out. All I can remember is him buying melons and going to see Pavarotti!

Cath said...

Tracy: Yep, they are quite long but the writing's so good you don't realise it and I'm always a bit sad when they end.

Nicola: I think after all that time I would probably not even remember that much!