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Dear Thursday: A GOOD YEAR by Peter Mayle [Book 8 of 2010]

Wow, two whole months of reading or listening to books every week. Glorious! Of all the indulgences I could have allowed myself this year, I can’t think of one better than this. That all said, her are my thoughts on A GOOD YEAR by Peter Mayle.

cover-good-yearWhy I Decided To Read It: I make it a policy to read any book that I run across that’s been made into a movie, and I ran across this one in the library. I should also say that I’m constantly surprised about what does and doesn’t get made. I haven’t seen the Ridley Scott movie, starring Russell Crowe, which arose from this book, but I could see the attraction for a big movie director, looking to make a little movie. This is certainly a little book.

What’s It About: Max, a British investment broker with debt issues, gets a big deal stolen our from under him and is fired by his boss. Just when everything seems lost, he inherits an old broken-down French winery from his uncle. Cue the quaint characters and a surprise cozy mystery.

What Makes It Different: This is basically travel chicklit, but with dudes.

What I Loved: I love travel p*rn disguised as fiction, and this book was heavy on both travel and food p*rn. The plot was basically something that happened between huge meals, lots of wine, jokes about French people, and detailed descriptions of Provence. After reading so many heavy books, this was a nice palate cleanser.

What I Didn’t Like: It makes me feel somewhat grumpy to say there wasn’t any real conflict and that the plot was thinner than prosciutto — but it was. And at no time did I feel a compelling need to actually finish this book.

Writing Lessons Learned:

Really fall in love with your setting. I can’t tell you how often I read books set in a certain city, and you just have to take the author’s word for it, b/c there’s nothing in the writing to set this place apart from other places. Mayle’s book made me really want to look at my city as a living breathing place — in the rewrite.

They’re not just people, they’re French people. This kind of goes along with setting. In this book about a British fellow moving to France, the British are very different from the the French and that’s pointed out in several ways, by showing us how the French dress, how they greet each other, and most importantly, how they eat. Don’t be afraid to really have your characters represent your city or country with something other than their accents.

Introduce your characters well. I really liked the way that Mayle introduced characters. For example one sensual French woman, who owns a restaurant, greets everyone who comes into her establishment with intimate enthusiasm, like they’re old friends, even if she’s only known them a little while. The British best friend of the main character is a passionate learner, and you can tell this by the way he orders a $500 bottle of wine with dinner, then schools Max (and consequently the reader) on how to drink it.

To Whom Would I Recommend This Book: Travel Lovers, Wine Lovers, Brits Who Vacation in France, Literary-Minded People Who Want To Read Something Not-Heavy.

TEN PEOPLE WHO WANT TO READ THIS YESTERDAY: Gudrun C-D, Marilyn F, Debra B, Josh G, Michaela T, My MIL, Marilyn R, Ben J, Janice R, Claudine C

Click on the cover pic to buy the book.