More Provençal bonhommie.
After a four-year leave, Mayle is back in the region he described in his bestselling A Year in Provence and Toujours ProvenceÄand the British author's fans will be pleased that he decided to return to his adopted homeland, for his writing is as charming and witty as ever. In the first chapter, "Second Impressions," Mayle explains that he and his wife quit the convenient, efficient life in America for the "smell of thyme in the fields" and "the swirl and jostle of Sunday-morning markets" of Provence. Mayle goes on to make hash of former New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl's disparaging assessment of Provence, apparently based on a single August visit, and heaps scorn on those who consider themselves to be "travelersÄintelligent, well-mannered, cultured"Ärather than tourists (as he proudly labels himself). The author then assists future tourists by naming his favorite markets, vineyards, bakeries, chambres d'h“tes, even places to go for the best olive oil or honey. A chapter called "A Beginner's Guide to Marseille" is equally informative and offers the little-known fact that "La Marseillaise" was actually composed in Strasbourg. Mayle enticingly recounts his peregrinations around the truffle markets and his searches for the perfect corkscrew or melon, but it's his ability to capture the subtle cultural peculiarities that distinguishes his writing. Upon first arriving in France from the U.S., Mayle observes, "I think it was the sight of a man power-washing his underpants [with a hose] that really brought home the difference, cultural and otherwise, between the old world and the new." Line drawings not seen by PW. 130,000 first printing; author tour. (June)