A Good Year is Peter Mayle’s umpteenth attempt at creating, re-creating rather, the A Year in Provence magic. The latter is one of my favourite books and undoubtedly Mayle’s writing-career defining work. However, as it happens, Peter Mayle wanted to reach out to a wider audience (read Americans), and in doing so decided to sacrifice some of the very English charm his most famous work is revered for, in his subsequent books. As a result, Toujours Provence and it’s likes never really achieved the cult status A Year in Provence did.
Horrifyingly, Peter Mayle decided thereafter to come up with a thriller cum travelogue. A daring attempt but a complex genre which only a few authors in history have been able to exploit successfully (The Feluda series by the brilliant Satyajit Ray immediately comes to mind). Anyway, in doing so, or in trying to do so, he has come up with one of the dullest plots (and a wafer thin one too) I’ve come across in recent years. A Good Year tells the story of a frustrated London banker (stereotype alert!) who finds out that his uncle who recently passed away has left him with a mini chalet (how convenient) in the heart of Provence. What follows is a trail of typical Peter Mayle jokes and anecdotes which have all been doled out in his previous works. In fact, he dares to challenge the reader’s intellect when he comes up with exactly, yes, exactly the same joke about English cooking (remember that one in A Year in Provence?). One gets the sense that somehow the author has decided to ditch his hard core fans in order to humour the more gullible and less demanding first time readers. And yes, lest I forget, there is a pseudo thriller/suspense feel to it, but the climax of it all is so, for want of a better word, lame, that one almost feels bewildered by the weird turn the plot takes.
If you are like me and enjoyed the author’s A Year in Provence or even the slightly boring and cluttered Toujours Provence, heed my advice dear fellow reader and avoid this book like the plague. You might just end up losing a lot of respect for this, sometimes masterfully eloquent author.