Peter Mayle, the British author whose midlife relocation to France inspired his best-selling book “A Year in Provence” and other works set in his adopted country, died Thursday at age 78.
Publisher Alfred A. Knopf announced that Mayle died after a brief illness in a hospital near his home in the south of France.
A Brighton native, Mayle was already in his late 40s when he moved to France in 1987, planning to write a novel after a career in advertising and educational publishing. But, as he told the Guardian in 2010, he was so caught up with all the interruptions of the new world around him “the farmer next door, the mushroom hunter and the lady with the frustrated donkey” that he wrote to his agent, Abner Stein, telling him that the novel wasn’t working out.
“Eventually I sent Abner a long letter, largely inspired by guilt, trying to explain why I hadn’t even started the novel, listing some of the distractions,” Mayle explained. “To my enormous surprise and relief, he wrote back saying that if I could do another 250 pages like the letter, he might be able to find a publisher.”
Published in 1989, “A Year in Provence” relates the couple’s month-by-month encounters with local builders, lawyers, truffle hunters, boar hunters and more. Its British publisher, Hamish Hamilton, had not expected much, ordering 3,000 copies. But the book kept selling, reaching the million-copy mark in England and 600,000 in sales in the United States.
As The Telegraph noted in a 2006 article, Mayle’s book “somehow tapped deep into a slumbering, latent, hitherto unknown British desire for sunshine and fine wine, for peeling shutters and croissants, for distressed armoires and saucisson and the good life in the French countryside.”
It was adapted into a miniseries by the BBC and Mayle wrote a sequel, “Toujours Provence,” in 1991. “A Year in Provence” is credited with inspiring a wave of similar expatriate stories including Frances Mayes’ “Under the Tuscan Sun.”
Mayle began his writing career in his 30s with sex-education books for children. His first book, “Where Did I Come From?” published in 1973, sought to explain the facts of life to children. He followed that with one on puberty, “What’s Happening to Me?”, before making this spectacularly successful switch to the travel memoir genre.
Mayle’s other books included the novel “A Good Year,” adapted by Ridley Scott into the 2006 movie of the same name, starring Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard. In recent years, Mayle completed a quartet of crime novels: “The Vintage Caper,” “The Corsican Caper,” “The Marseille Caper” and “The Diamond Caper.”
Mayle was apparently not fully happy with the BBC the television adaptation of “A Year in Provence,” especially with the way he was portrayed.
“John Thaw, who played me, seemed to be in a perpetually bad mood,” he told The Connexion, “whereas I was absolutely delighted with my new life in France.”
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
Date created : 2018-01-19